President Barack Obama called for swift implementation of the "don't ask, don't tell" repeal as he signed the legislation into law on Wednesday.
This morning, Obama signed the lame-duck bill overthrowing the 1993 ban on open homosexuality in the U.S. military. The moment, he said, was "nearly two decades in the making." Before signing, the president told the audience that he expected everyone at the Department of Defense to commit to quick implementation of the law.
"I've spoken to every one of the service chiefs. They are all committed to implementing this change swiftly and efficiently. We're not going to be dragging our feet in this subject," he proclaimed to the crowd.
The comment drew applause from a sympathetic crowd, recording the moment on their cellphones and cameras. In the audience were soldiers ousted from the armed services through DADT. Obama praised them and gay rights advocates for their efforts to drive the plights of gay and lesbian soldiers to the floor of Congress.
Throughout the ceremony, he told several stories of homosexual servicemen whom fellow soldiers knew were gay yet still respected. With the ceremonial signing of the legislation, the president offered a word of welcome to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender soldiers to military.
"Your country needs you, your country wants you, and we will be honored to welcome you into the ranks of the finest military the world has ever known," he welcomed.
"This is an accomplishment that he is proud of," White House Press Secretary Robert Gates said at the 10 a.m. White House press conference.
In wake of today's signing, conservative groups say they have not conceded on this issue. Family Research Council President Tony Perkins called the Senate's passage on Saturday of repeal legislation "tragic" and a blatant show of disregard for soldiers.
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The FRC website continued on that thought, calling the passers of the legislation "self-serving." A banner on the site today reads, "DADT defeat doesn't mean conservative surrender."
Obama acknowledged apprehension. However, he continued, "As commander-in-chief, I am certain that we can effect this transition in a way that strengthens our military base."
Conservatives contest the thought that integration of openly homosexual soldiers can be done without affecting the military. Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Bill Spencer told Focus on Family's policy affiliate Citizen Link, "Recruitment and retention is going to be a problem now." He also expressed that combat soldiers will begin to have second thoughts about morality and sharing close quarters with homosexuals when they should be focused on the mission.
Also, conservatives have expressed concern for military chaplains who may be censored by the new legislation. "The first official casualty of this hurried vote may well be the religious freedom of chaplains and service members," said Daniel Blomberg, litigation counsel of the Alliance Defense Fund in a statement Tuesday.
Retired Army chaplain and chaplain endorser Douglas Lee told The Christian Post earlier that he is continuing to encourage chaplains to serve boldly despite the repeal. "It's good to know there is an end to all of this drama because Jesus is Lord and we have the victory," he said.