Obama: Repeal Of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Will Strengthen National Security
Update at 9:58 a.m. ET: Saying that the action will strengthen the nation and end a practice that forced some members of the military to lie about themselves, President Obama this hour signed legislation that repeals the "don't ask, don't tell" law that bars openly gay men and women from serving in the U.S. military.
We updated this post with news from the ceremony, which was held at the U.S. Department of Interior to hold a large crowd. Read through to see how the event unfolded (or scroll down and "read up" if you want to see things in chronological order).
Update at 9:37 a.m. ET:Surrounded by lawmakers and supporters, the president just finished signing the repeal.
Update at 9:35 a.m. ET: "We are not a nation that says 'don't ask, don't tell,' " Obama declares. "We are a nation that says 'out of many, we are one.' "
He's now sitting down to sign the legislation.
Update at 9:33 a.m. ET: The president encourages those who have been discharged from the military because of don't ask, don't tell to re-enlist.
Update at 9:30 a.m. ET:Obama retells an anecdote that's gotten lots of attention in recent days. A member of the Special Forces told Pentagon officials that he's been on duty with a gay soldier. "He's big, he's mean, he kills lots of bad guys. ... No one cares that he's gay," Obama quotes the Special Forces soldier as saying about his comrade.
"That sums up the situation perfectly," the president says.
Update at 9:28 a.m. ET: The president notes that repeal doesn't take effect until he and his top aides "certify the military's readiness."
"But we're not going to be dragging our feet," he adds.
Update at 9:24 a.m. ET: Even bigger cheers for Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-PA, an Iraq War veteran and one of the lawmakers who worked for repeal.
Update at 9:23 a.m. ET: Big cheers for outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, when the president thanks her for her work on the repeal. And, big cheers for repeal supporters Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-CT, and Sen. Susan Collins, R-ME.
Update at 9:20 a.m. ET: "This law I'm about to sign will strengthen our national security," Obama says, because the nation will no longer be denied the skills of those who couldn't serve.
Update at 9:18 a.m. ET: Obama tells the story of a American private who was saved in one of the last battles of World War II by a friend and fellow soldier. Years later, the soldier who was saved would learn his friend was gay. "He didn't much care," Obama says.
Update at 9:15 a.m. ET: "This is a good day!," the president says, after getting a standing ovation as he entered the room.
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