Factbox: Obama to sign law ending military ban on gays

(BestGrowthStock) – President Barack Obama is expected to sign a measure into law on Wednesday that lifts the ban on homosexuals serving openly in the U.S. armed forces.

Approval of the measure by Congress this month was a victory for Obama, who made repeal of the long-standing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy a campaign issue but sought to end the ban through Congress rather than the courts.

Here are facts about the policy and its upcoming repeal:

WHAT IS “DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL”?

Gays and lesbians were banned from serving in the military until 1993, when Democratic President Bill Clinton’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy allowed them to join if they kept their sexual orientation to themselves.

At least 13,000 men and women have been expelled from the U.S. armed forces under the policy.

But the controversial rule has been the subject of legal challenges. This fall, a California judge ruled the ban was unconstitutional and ordered the military to stop enforcing it immediately. The federal government appealed the decision and the policy was reinstated.

WHAT HAPPENS NOW?

The Pentagon says it will begin drafting plans to implement the law in an “orderly” manner, including steps to educate troops, revise internal regulations and make decisions about how the new policy will affect discipline, benefits and military housing.

Once those plans are complete — military leaders have not said how long it will take but it could be months — Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will sign off on them.

Sixty days later, the repeal will officially take effect. Until then, the current ban will remain in effect.

WILL DISCHARGED SOLDIERS BE ABLE TO RETURN?

Military officials say it is not yet certain whether soldiers forced out for violating “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will be allowed to re-enlist but they point to a military working group’s recommendations to allow it in cases where no other rules were broken.

HOW WILL THE REPEAL CHANGE MILITARY READINESS?

Many military leaders advocate lifting the ban, with the notable exception of those in the Marine Corps, who warn it could be a dangerous disruption at a time when U.S. troops remain in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A Pentagon study this fall found that most members of the armed forces did not object to lifting the ban but that a “significant minority” of about 30 percent had concerns or negative views, notably among Marines and military chaplains.

The study reported that common concerns about the repeal’s possible effects were exaggerated.

(Reporting from the Pentagon; Editing by John O’Callaghan)

Factbox: Obama to sign law ending military ban on gays