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It's official - the military can no longer prevent gays and lesbians from serving openly, with the end of the controversial "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. After years of debate and months of preparation, the ban was repealed on September 20.
Introduced in 1993 by the Clinton administration, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," prevented many personnel from being honest about their sexuality for fear of punishment or expulsion. More than 13,500 gay and lesbian service members have been discharged from the Armed Forces since the bill was signed into law.
"Patriotic Americans will no longer have to lie about who they are in order to serve the country they love," said President Barack Obama in a statement released by the White House. "Today, every American can be proud that we have taken another great step toward keeping our military the finest in the world and toward fulfilling our nation's founding ideals."
The military has been preparing for the shift for the past several months, providing training and updating regulations and handbooks. In fact, the Pentagon began accepting applications from openly gay men and women weeks ago, and has been waiting for the repeal to officially go into effect to process them.
There are currently 29 other nations, including Israel, Canada, Germany and Sweden, that allow gay individuals to serve openly in their militaries.