- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 20, 2011

WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta on Tuesday said that repealing the ban on openly gay service made this an historic day for the military and the nation.

Mr. Panetta said 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. The Pentagon will continue to look at other opportunities, including the role of women in combat, he said.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said 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.