News (USA)

Panetta to announce Pentagon is ready to certify repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is expected to announce on Friday that the Pentagon is ready to certify the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” paving the way for gay men and women to serve openly in all branches of the U.S. military.

Leon Panetta

Following the announcement, President Barack Obama would then be allowed to formally lift the ban that has been in place for almost 18 years.

In accordance with a law passed in December that set in motion the process of ending the ban, Obama first must receive notice from Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and top uniformed brass that the military is prepared to end the policy before the government stops enforcing it. The policy will end 60 days after Obama formally certifies the repeal in writing to Congress.

If Obama signs the certification in the coming days, the ban would end in late September.

The certification comes after months of training for military personnel to prepare them for the presence of openly gay uniformed colleagues for the first time in history, reports Stars and Stripes.

Two weeks ago, a federal appeals court upheld a lower court’s ruling that the policy was unconstitutional, and ordered the immediate halt of enforcement of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

But last week, the Justice Department filed a motion asking the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to reconsider its order, as it would short-circuit the repeal process established by Congress during the final stages of the implementation of the repeal.

The Court agreed, and on Friday, July 16, temporarily reinstated the ban, but prohibited the government from “investigating, penalizing, or discharging anyone from the military pursuant to the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.”

Even after the policy is repealed, the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) would still prevent the spouses and partners of gay service members from receiving benefits available to to heterosexual couples.

President Obama has said he supports the repeal of DOMA, and on Tuesday the White House announced the President’s endorsement of the Respect For Marriage Act — the bill that would repeal DOMA.

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