Obama: Gays will serve openly in the military this year

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US President Barack Obama mentioned the military gay ban in his State of the Union address yesterday.

In the annual address, he called for more support for troops, veterans and their families and acknowledged that some are gay.

He said: “Tonight, let us speak with one voice in reaffirming that our nation is united in support of our troops and their families.

“Let us serve them as well as they have served us – by giving them the equipment they need; by providing them with the care and benefits they have earned; and by enlisting our veterans in the great task of building our own nation.

“Our troops come from every corner of this country – they are black, white, Latino, Asian and Native American. They are Christian and Hindu, Jewish and Muslim.

“And, yes, we know that some of them are gay. Starting this year, no American will be forbidden from serving the country they love because of who they love.”

To the disappointment of gay rights activists, he did not mention gay marriage. The president recently said he was “continuing to wrestle” with the question.

The comments in yesterday’s speech follow his promise one year ago to end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

In 2010’s State of the Union speech, he said: “This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. It’s the right thing to do.”

He pledged to repeal the 1993 law in his 2008 election campaign but was criticised by gay groups for being slow to act.

In December, the US Senate finally voted to repeal the 17-year ban.

However, it may take months before gay soldiers are permitted to serve openly and those fired can re-apply to join the military.

Military officials are currently considering how to rewrite policies around the change, then Obama, Defence Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm Mike Mullen must certify that the ban can be lifted without damaging the military.

Following this certification, 60 days must pass before repeal officially takes place.