Obama pens armed services gay law
President Barack Obama has signed a landmark law ordering America's armed services to let openly homosexuals to serve for the first time.
Surrounded by senior military officials and members of Congress, Mr Obama said he was proud to sign the Bill, which he said will strengthen national security.
The change will not be immediate, however, as the Bill requires the military to complete implementation plans before lifting the old "don't ask, don't tell" policy - and certify that it will not damage combat readiness, as critics claim.
In signing the law Mr Obama fulfilled a campaign pledge and notched the second of three expected victories in what's turned out to be - for him - a surprisingly productive closing weeks of the current session of Congress.
The signing ceremony was a breakthrough moment for the nation's gay community, the military and for Mr Obama . The president had faced pressure from liberals, an important base in his Democratic party, who complained he was not acting swiftly enough.
The signing had the feel of a political rally. Speaking in the Interior Department's auditorium, Mr Obama appeared in his element as shouts of "Thank you, Mr. President!" interrupted him.
He hailed the "courage and vision" of Defence Secretary Robert Gates and praised Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen, who advocated changing the 17-year-old policy.
"No longer will tens of thousands of Americans in uniform be asked to live a lie, or look over their shoulder in order to serve the country that they love," Mr Obama said.