The armed forces are ready to set aside the 18-year-old "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that forced gay recruits to keep their sexual orientation secret, Obama said in a statement.
Obama signed a law allowing for the repeal last year, but needed Pentagon leaders to certify that military readiness would not suffer as a result. He said the Friday announcement followed "extensive training of our military personnel and certification by Secretary Panetta and Admiral Mullen that our military is ready for repeal," referring to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and chairman of the U.S. Military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen.
Last week, a federal appeals court reversed itself and temporarily reinstated the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy on gays in the military and blocked the Pentagon from any significant enforcement while the government prepared for an end to the policy.
In the meantime, a separate challenge to the policy had advanced in the federal court system, where earlier this month the 9th U.S. Circuit Court panel upheld a lower-court decision declaring "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" unconstitutional and ordered the military to immediately lift the ban.
The judges' three-page order also states that only one military service member has been discharged for being openly gay since the passage of the repeal act in December.
The judges stated that "in order to provide this court with an opportunity to consider fully the issues presented in light of these previously undisclosed facts" it was temporarily reinstating the policy.
But the order also blocks the military "from investigating, penalizing or discharging anyone from the military pursuant to the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy."
The policy dates from 1993, when then-President Bill Clinton signed the directive into law as a compromise with the military to end an outright ban on gay service members that had been in force for decades.
More than 13,000 men and women have been expelled from the military under the policy since it was instituted by Clinton.