WASHINGTON — Pentagon chief Leon Panetta has decided to end the ban on gays serving openly in the armed services and certify that repealing the 17-year-old prohibition will not hurt the military's ability to fight, the Associated Press reported Thursday, citing unnamed officials.
His decision, which was expected, comes two weeks after the chiefs of the military services told Panetta that ending the ban would not affect military readiness. Dismantling the ban fulfills a campaign promise by President Barack Obama, who helped usher the repeal through Congress. He signed it in December.
But the move also drew opposition from some in Congress and reluctance from military leaders, who worried that it could cause a backlash and erode troop cohesion on the battlefield. The AP said defense officials would make an announcement this afternoon. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision had not been made public, the AP said.
Obama is also expected to certify the change. Repeal of the ban would become effective 60 days after certification, which could open the military to gays by the end of September.
The so-called don't ask, don't tell policy was adopted during the Clinton administration and has come under an onslaught of legal challenges, including a federal court ruling in early July that ordered the federal government to immediate stop enforcing it. The Obama administration appealed the ruling, and a San Francisco appeals court agreed, but added a caveat: The government cannot investigate, penalize or discharge anyone for being openly gay.