The Obama administration is expected to announce Friday that the Pentagon is ready to permit gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military, allowing President Obama to bring a formal end to the policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” said a U.S. official and others familiar with the plans.
In accordance with a law passed in December that authorized repealing the ban on gays in the military, Obama must receive notice from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and top brass that the military is prepared to end the policy before the government stops enforcing it.
The notice will verify that military readiness and recruiting will not be harmed by the repeal, according to the official and other sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the Pentagon’s conclusions have not yet been announced.
The policy will end 60 days after Obama formally certifies the repeal in writing to Congress.
Once the nearly two-decade-old ban ends, gays and lesbians serving in military uniform will be able to reveal their sexual identity 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 wed at military chapels or live together on military bases in states that recognize same-sex marriages.
But several unresolved issues remain regarding military spousal benefits for gay couples, including potential housing options and survivor benefits. Complicating any resolution is that the Defense of Marriage Act — which bars federal recognition of same-sex marriages — will keep same-sex military couples from enjoying full spousal benefits.
Obama announced support this week for legislation to repeal DOMA, which gay activists say would be necessary for gay couples to earn full acceptance in the military.
On the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, gay service members contacted in recent weeks said they don’t anticipate publicly disclosing their sexual orientation right away. Soldiers stationed in Afghanistan reported that despite the completion of mandatory training programs in recent months, colleagues and commanding officers have been using gay slurs or making gay jokes.
In Iraq, training courses ended weeks ago, and troops said they don’t anticipate the policy change would adversely affect operations.
“I don’t think there’s any issue with it whatsoever,” Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, the chief spokesman for U.S. forces in Iraq, said in an interview. “And if there are individual issues, then people will have to either conform or make a decision to leave when they can.”