Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced Tuesday that the Pentagon has begun the process to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that bars homosexuals from openly serving in the military.
Gates told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that the policy will take over a year to repeal because the Pentagon is looking at various options in order to "get this right and minimize disruption to a force that is actively fighting two wars and working through the stress of almost a decade of combat."
"The question before us is not whether the military prepares to make this change, but how we best prepare for it," Gates said. "We have received our orders from the commander in chief and we are moving out accordingly."
President Obama during the State of the Union address last week called for the repeal of the contentious policy.
The "don't ask, don't tell" policy was enacted by President Clinton in 1993 after Congress passed a law that same year banning homosexuals from serving in the military. The "don't ask, don't tell" policy was a compromise that bars openly gay individuals from serving in the U.S. military, but it also bars the military from asking service members their sexual orientation.
Some think it is better to keep the policy, including Retired Air Force Col. Bill Spencer.
"It's not really about orientation," Spencer said to Focus on the Family's CitizenLink. "It is about mission orientation. It's about putting the mission first ahead of self."
Likewise, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) opposes the idea of repealing the policy, which he says the majority of the U.S. military supports.
"At a time when our Armed Forces are fighting and sacrificing on the battlefield, now is not the time to abandon the policy," said McCain, a former Navy pilot, after the State of the Union address.
On the other hand, supporters of the repeal say it is the right thing to do and will allow for fairer treatment of gay servicemen.
The military will need to discuss what the repeal will look like in terms of benefits for gay spouses, barracks for straight and gay troops, and the possibility of hate crimes.
Ultimately though, it will be Congress that decides whether to repeal the policy.
The U.S. House will hold its own hearing on the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on March 3.