Openly Gay US Soldiers Can Fight

(Aljazeera)

The US Senate has voted to allow openly gay soldiers to serve in the military. The change of legislation, on Saturday, would not take immediate effect.

It is expected to be signed into law by President Obama next week, giving him the chance to fulfil a campaign promise and repeal the 17-year policy known as "don't ask, don't tell."

"It is time to recognise that sacrifice, valour and integrity are no more defined by sexual orientation than they are by race or gender, religion or creed," Obama said in a statement.

Under the bill, the president and his top military advisers must first certify that lifting the ban will not hurt troops' ability to fight. After that, the military would undergo a 60-day wait period.

Supporters celebrate

Gays and lesbians in uniform celebrated in San Francisco, as gays would be openly accepted by the US military and could acknowledge their sexual orientation without fear of being kicked out.

Several former members of the armed forces gathered to watch the Senate vote. And cheers erupted when the final tally of the senate vote, 65-31 was announced.

Supporters say the repeal signals a historic civil rights milestone.

For Zoe Dunning, a retired U.S. Navy Commander , Saturday's vote ended a long struggle that included two military discharge hearings after she announced she was gay.

Dunning was eventually allowed to remain in the Navy.

"After 18 years of working on this, I witnessed the end to this destructive policy and these are tears of joy, I've got to tell you," she said.

Many of those who were dismissed due to their sexual orientation have said that they hope to return to service.

Supporters of repeal filled the visitor seats overlooking the Senate floor, ready to protest had the bill failed.

More than 13,500 service members have been dismissed under the 1993 law that forced g