U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday said American armed forces would no longer lose the “extraordinary skills” of gays and lesbians as his administration lifted a ban on them serving in the military, ending an 18-year-old practise that had resulted in dismissal of some 14,000 service members.

“Today, the discriminatory law known as ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is finally and formally repealed. As of today, patriotic Americans in uniform will no longer have to lie about who they are in order to serve the country they love,” Mr. Obama said.

“As of today, our armed forces will no longer lose the extraordinary skills and combat experience of so many gay and lesbian service members. And today, as Commander-in-Chief, I want those who were discharged under this law to know that your country deeply values your service,” he said in a statement.

Earlier, Pentagon spokesman George Little said, “We are prepared for repeal.” The 1993 law had banned gays and lesbians from serving openly in the US military.

“No one should be left with the impression that we are unprepared. We are prepared for repeal. The force is well aware that this is coming. They’ve had the training. It’s been in the press for months. The September 20th day is not a mystery,” Mr. Little said.

Proud to sign the Repeal Act into law last December, Obama said he knew that it would enhance national security, increase military readiness, and bring them closer to the principles of equality and fairness that defines the Americans.

Mr. Obama said for more than two centuries, they have worked to extend America’s promise to all its citizens.

“Our armed forces have been both a mirror and a catalyst of that progress, and our troops, including gays and lesbians, have given their lives to defend the freedoms and liberties that we cherish as Americans,” he said.

“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,” Mr. Obama said.

As a result of the Tuesday’s repeal statements about sexual orientation will no longer be a bar to enlisting in the military or a cause for dismissal, said Army Maj Gen Gary S Patton, chief of staff for the Pentagon’s repeal implementation team.

In addition, former service members separated from the military under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell based solely on their sexual orientation will be eligible to reapply to return to military service. Patton said their applications will be evaluated using the same standards as all other candidates, and decisions will be based on needs of the service.

Mr. Patton said he expects the repeal implementation to stay on track because of the pre-repeal training across the force.

In addition, many other existing policies considered “sexual-orientation neutral” remain in place.

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