Obama Signs ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Repeal into Law

Dec 22, 2010 11:38am

ABC News' Sunlen Miller reports: Declaring that the nation is not one “that says ‘don't ask, don't tell,’ we are a nation that says, "out of many, we are one,” President Obama today signed a repeal of the17-year-old ban on gays serving in the military. “No longer will our country be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans who are forced to leave the military — regardless of their skills, no matter their bravery or their zeal, no matter their years of exemplary performance — because they happen to be gay,” Obama said from the Department of the Interior today, “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.” The bill signing was emotional at many times — some in the audience were teary, Representative Barney Frank held his head in his hands appearing to be overcome to the emotion of the moment. At many times the exuberant crowd — filled with approximately 500 attendees including Administration officials, Members of Congress and key advocates and stakeholders — screamed out loud, shouting, “yes we did,”  and “thank you.” The president seemed touched by the moment as well. “I am — I am — I am just overwhelmed,” he said, “This — this is a very good day.” The president said that the bill will strengthen the national security of the nation and uphold the ideals that the men and women in the armed forces risk their lives to fight to defend. He added though that it is not just the right thing to do for the military, but it’s “the right thing to do, period.” The president recalled one of his favorite stories from a special operations officer during the Pentagon’s review. " 'We have a gay guy in the unit’,” the president quoted, ” 'He's big. He's mean. He kills lots of bad guys. No one cared that he was gay.’  And I think that sums up perfectly the situation.” The president addressed the concern over the implementation of the law, noting that the old policy will remain in effect until he, Secretary Gates, and Admiral Mullen certify the military's readiness to implement the repeal. “But I have spoken to every one of the service chiefs, and they are all committed to implementing this change swiftly and efficiently. We are not going to be dragging our feet to get this done,” he promised. With change, comes some natural apprehension the president noted. “But as commander in chief, I am certain that we can effect this transition in a way that only strengthens our military readiness. The people will look back on this moment and wonder why it was ever a source of controversy in the first place.” The president gave a special round of thanks to members of congress who fought this bill as well as Secretary Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen who he said he’s confident that history will remember for their “courage and vision,” and for speaking from their hearts. He also singled out Eric Alva, one of the first Americans to be injured in Iraq, a US Marine from San Antonio and later advocate, who was on stage for the signing.   The president expressed his gratitude to the men and woman of the armed services, who had been discharged as a result of this policy over the years and went on to fight for the repeal of the law. “I want to thank all the patriots who are here today, all of them who were forced to hang up their uniforms as a result of ‘don't ask, don't tell,’  but who never stopped fighting for this country, and who rallied and who marched and fought for change.” The president said that he hopes for those who have been discharged to reenlist once the repeal is implemented. “That is why I say to all Americans, gay or straight, who want nothing more than to defend this country in uniform, your country needs you, your country wants you, and we will be honored to welcome you into the ranks of the finest military the world has ever known.” The president also spoke directly to the gay men and women currently serving in the military, calling them the “first generation to serve openly” in the armed services. He said they will be called to serve as “role models” for all who came before and all who come after them. “You’ve been asked to carry the added burden of secrecy and isolation, and all the while you've put your lives on the line for the freedoms and privileges of citizenship that are not fully granted to you.  You're not the first to have carried this burden.  For while today marks the end of a particular struggle that has lasted almost two decades, this is a moment more than two centuries in the making.” As the president signed the bill into law, one audience member shouted, “We’re here Mr. President, enlist us now.” As the president finished signing the bill and down the last pen he declared, “this is done.”

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