President Obama certified Friday that the military is ready to repeal "don't ask, don't tell," the 1993 law and policy that has banned gays from openly serving in the military.
After a mandatory 60-day wait period, the controversial policy will officially be reversed on Sept. 20.
Pentagon officials said Friday that the nearly two million active-duty service members have participated in training designed to inform them of new policies and procedures under a repeal.
Marine Maj. Gen. Steve Hummer, chief of staff to Military Personnel Policy's Repeal Implementation Team, outlined some of those major policy changes, or lack thereof, in a briefing with Pentagon reporters.
The first and most significant change is obvious. Upon repeal, statements about sexual orientation will no longer be a bar to military service, and service members cannot be separated for being gay.
However, gays who were previously separated under "don't ask, don't tell" may apply to renter the force.
A decision was also made that commanders "cannot physically segregate members by sexual orientation," Hummer said. That means the creation of separate bathroom facilities or living quarters based on sexual orientation is prohibited. Hummer admitted that policy change was met by some criticism during training sessions.
And in what will surely be seen as a loss by gay advocates, the Pentagon said it is required to abide by laws pertaining to the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibit the extension of certain military benefits to same sex couples including health care, housing allowances and transpiration allowances.
Gays in the military will be eligible for more standard individual benefits, such as the right to choose any beneficiary for life insurance, thrift savings plans and survivor benefits.
Until now, 14,000 gays have been kicked out of the military under "don't ask, don't tell."
Former Maj. Mike Almy was one of them. He served four tours in Iraq and ran the air war over Fallujah until his commanding officers found e-mails on his computer sent to a boyfriend. On Friday, he welcomed the repeal.
"It's a little bittersweet for me personally," Almy said. "Five years ago today was my final day on active duty -- the day I was thrown out and given police escort from the base. So obviously it comes too late to help myself, but it will help tens of thousands of Americans."
On Capitol Hill, the certification was met by some resistance from lawmakers on the right. The Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., has called the Pentagon's repeal assessment flawed and wants to review the assessments from each individual service.