President Obama will announce tonight that gay and lesbian servicemembers will be able to serve openly in the armed forces as soon as this year, suggesting that he will soon certify repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Under the measure Congress passed last year, the repeal does not go into effect until 60 days after the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Obama certify that it does not undermine military readiness or unit cohesion. From the speech, as published by the National Journal:
OBAMA: Our troops come from every corner of this country – they are black, white, Latino, Asian and Native American. They are Christian and Hindu, Jewish and Muslim. And, yes, we know that some of them are gay. Starting this year, no American will be forbidden from serving the country they love because of who they love. And with that change, I call on all of our college campuses to open their doors to our military recruiters and the ROTC. It is time to leave behind the divisive battles of the past. It is time to move forward as one nation.
Earlier this month, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said the Defense Department would begin implementing repeal of DADT “as quickly but as responsibly as possible,” describing implementation as a three-step process that involves changing regulations, prepare training materials, and training the servicemembers. Gates has tasked Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Clifford Stanley to accelerate the first two phases of implementation and said the Pentagon was approaching the task with the philosophy of, it’s better to end the policy “sooner rather than later.”
Several Republicans, however, have introduced a measure in the House to delay implementation. That measure would require the heads of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines to sign off on allowing openly gay service members, even though the chiefs have previously suggested that such a measure would undermine the military’s chain of command.