WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen certified Friday that the U.S. military is prepared to accept openly gay and lesbian service members, and that doing so will not harm military readiness, according to the White House.
Under a bill passed last year that set up a process for repealing the controversial "don't ask, don't tell" policy, all three men needed to sign a certification that confirms the military's ability to accept the integration of openly gay and lesbian troops.
"As of Sept. 20, service members will no longer be forced to hide who they are in order to serve our country," the president said in a statement released Friday afternoon.
A 60-day waiting period will now begin before the repeal is fully implemented.
(CNN & USA Today contributed to this report)