The debate over gays in the military has been settled with a historic decision to allow them to serve openly, but big questions lie ahead about how and when the change will take place, how troops will accept it and whether it will hamper the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan and Iraq.
President Barack Obama is expected to sign into law this week the legislation that passed the Senate on Saturday, an act some believe will carry social implications as profound as President Harry S. Truman's 1948 executive order on racial equality in the military.
The new law probably won't go into practice for months. Obama and his top advisers must first certify that repealing the 1993 ban on gays serving openly will not damage U.S. troops' ability to fight. That ban, known as "don't ask, don't tell," has allowed gays to serve, but only if they kept quiet about their sexual orientation.
In the meantime, the restrictions will remain on the books, although it's unclear how fully they will be enforced. Some believe gay discharge cases will be dropped as soon as Obama signs the law.
The issue of gays in the military has been a contentious one for decades. Until 1993, all recruits had to state on a questionnaire whether they were homosexual; if they said "yes," they could not join. More than 13,500 service members were dismissed under the law.