US President Barack Obama [official website] on Wednesday signed into law [press release] a bill to repeal the military's controversial "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy (DADT) [10 USC § 654; JURIST news archive]. The Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010 [HR 2965 materials] was approved in the Senate Saturday after being passed [JURIST reports] by the House of Representatives last week. At the signing ceremony, Obama said [remarks]:
this law I'm about to sign will strengthen our national security and uphold the ideals that our fighting men and women risk their lives to defend. No longer will our country be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans who were forced to leave the militaryregardless of their skills, no matter their bravery or their zeal, no matter their years of exemplary performancebecause they happen to be gay. No longer will tens of thousands of Americans in uniform be asked to live a lie, or look over their shoulder, in order to serve the country that they love.DADT will remain in effect until the president, secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify that the necessary policies and procedures are in place within the military to implement the repeal. After receiving certification, the full repeal must take effect within 60 days.
The Obama administration had been pushing Congress to repeal DADT as courts have also been weighing in on the issue. Last week, three former service members discharged under DADT filed a complaint against the Department of Defense seeking reinstatement [JURIST report] and the declaration that their discharges under the statute, and the statute itself, are unconstitutional. Last month, US Air Force Major Margaret Witt, who was discharged under DADT, became the first openly gay person to serve in the US military after the Obama administration did not pursue a stay of a previous federal court decision ordering her reinstatement [JURIST reports]. The policy was struck down by a federal court in September, but an appeals court has since stayed that ruling [JURIST reports]. Since the enactment of DADT in 1993, approximately 13,000 servicemen and women have been discharged from the armed forces as a result of the policy.