WASHINGTON (RNN) - Repeal of the law commonly known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) is expected to be certified Friday, according to sources.
The White House has received certification from the Pentagon on the repeal of the law that bans gay men and women from serving openly in the military, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) said to the Raycom News Network on Thursday evening.
"This Pentagon certification received by the White House this afternoon is welcomed by gay and lesbian service members who have had to serve their country in silence for far too long," said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of SLDN, in a press release. "The troops and their commanders are ready."
While repeal was approved by Congress on Dec. 18, 2010, it does not have the force of law until 60 days after it is certified by the president, secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Full repeal of DADT will now come in late September.
"Our nation's top military leaders have testified that commanders see no significant challenges ahead," Sarvis said. "The official certification to Congress that the armed forces are prepared for the end of ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell' should go to Capitol Hill tomorrow with the President's signature."
News that newly sworn-in Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta would certify the law was confirmed Thursday by the nation's top media outlets.
Many advocates, including Alex Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United, had expected repeal to be certified before Robert Gates, a leading repeal advocate, left his post as secretary in June.
While a formal announcement of repeal is expected tomorrow, SLDN urged troops to remain "cautious."
"I think service members are celebratory about this coming certification," said Zeke Stokes, director of communication at SLDN, in a telephone interview. "But at SLDN, we urge service members to remain cautious, because the 60-day clock remains."
The Pentagon has, in fact, discharged several troops despite Congress' approval of the repeal of DADT.
"Until repeal occurs, the law commonly known as 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' remains in effect, and the Department of Defense will continue to apply the law as it is obligated to do so," said Eileen Lainez, a spokeswoman for the Department of Defense.
A new policy instituted on Oct. 21, 2010, however, has made it more difficult for discharges to occur. The policy states that all discharges under DADT must be approved by several ranks of the military, including the secretary of the branch of service in which the accused serves and Defense Department's lawyers.
Even after the 60-day mark passes, the battle is far from over for SLDN and other gay rights advocates.
"At SLDN, we will be advocating for effective implementation of the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' repeal," said Zeke.
Zeke said his organization also will push President Barack Obama to sign an executive order that prohibits discrimination and harassment in the military, a move that would grant gay service members a resource outside of their chain of command.
SLDN will also push the federal government for an equality of benefits for legally married, same-sex service members in addition to providing its core legal services, Zeke said. Housing and healthcare benefits for partners are two things currently denied to gay service members.
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