By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says repealing the ban on openly gay service makes this an historic day for the military and the nation.
Panetta says he is committed to removing all the barriers that prevent Americans from serving their country and rising to the highest level of responsibility they can achieve. He says the Pentagon will continue to look at other opportunities, including the role of women in combat.
Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen says that with the new law allowing gays to serve openly, the military is a stronger, more tolerant joint force with greater character and honor.
Repeal of the 18-year-old legal ban took effect just after midnight.