Here is the full text of the statement by President Obama issued to coincide with the Senate vote for repeal:
Today, President Obama released a statement on the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010 -
Today, the Senate has taken an historic step toward ending a policy that undermines our national security while violating the very ideals that our brave men and women in uniform risk their lives to defend. By ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” no longer will our nation be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans forced to leave the military, despite years of exemplary performance, because they happen to be gay. And no longer will many thousands more be asked to live a lie in order to serve the country they love.
As Commander-in-Chief, I am also absolutely convinced that making this change will only underscore the professionalism of our troops as the best led and best trained fighting force the world has ever known. And I join the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as the overwhelming majority of service members asked by the Pentagon, in knowing that we can responsibly transition to a new policy while ensuring our military strength and readiness.
I want to thank Majority Leader Reid, Senators Lieberman and Collins and the countless others who have worked so hard to get this done. It is time to close this chapter in our history. It is time to recognize that sacrifice, valor and integrity are no more defined by sexual orientation than they are by race or gender, religion or creed. It is time to allow gay and lesbian Americans to serve their country openly. I urge the Senate to send this bill to my desk so that I can sign it into law.
At long last the US joins most other liberal democracies (such as the UK, Holland, Spain and many others) in allowing all its citizens to serve openly and proudly in the military. We in the UK got rid of the ban on gays serving in the military some years ago, with absolutely no adverse-effects on military effectiveness whatsoever, despite the earlier whining of those opposed to the change. I suspect strongly that in a few years time the US experience will be precisely the same and that they will be asking themselves why they delayed so long and what all the fuss was about.
A good day!
UPDATE: (Sunday 19DEC10 09.10 GMT) Here's a BBC report with embedded video-clip of campaigners celebrating the decision.