U.S. Defense officials said that the Pentagon chief Leon Panetta and the Joint Chiefs of Staff will certify Friday that the military is prepared for a repeal of the controversial "don't ask, don't tell" law, allowing President Barack Obama to officially end the policy and paving the way for openly gay troops to begin serving in the military in late September.
The decision, which comes after almost 20 years of controversy, was not unexpected, according to the Associated Press. The Pentagon has been conducting studies and training for months to assess how troops would react to the change, which was triggered by a law passed by Congress and signed by President Obama seven months ago, in December.
Obama had pledged to reverse the policy, but only if military leaders agreed that military readiness wouldn't be adversely affected by the move, ABC News reported. Under rules outlined by Congress in December, the president, the defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had to certify that the military was prepared for the change before the law could be repealed, Stars and Stripes reported
After the certification, a 60-day waiting period kicks in before the repeal is fully implemented, according to CNN.
On July 6, the 9th Circuit Court of appeals ordered the military to stop enforcing the ban, which halted all discharges under the policy and also made it impossible for recruiters to turn away openly gay recruits, according to the Wall Street Journal. On July 15, the court modified its ruling, but still prohibited the Defense Department from discharging any gay or lesbian service personnel. Gay rights advocates have informed service members that they shouldn't reveal their sexual orientation until the ban is formally reversed.
With the certification on Friday, the ban will disappear in late September.
With the end of the ban, which has been in effect for almost 18 years, gays and lesbians serving in the armed forces will be able to publicly reveal their sexual orientation without fear of dismissal or official rebuke, openly gay men and women will be able to enlist in the military, and gay couples may be allowed to marry at military chapels or live together on military bases, but only in states that recognize same-sex marriages, the Washington Post said.
The military now has to deal with the question of what benefits same-sex couples will be eligible for, the Wall Street Journal reported. The military will be able to provide some services to same-sex spouses, such as family support for spouses of deployed service members, but federal law stops it from providing them with all of the health, housing and education benefits that are available to heterosexual couples.