Pentagon lifts military ban on gays

The Pentagon chief, Leon Panetta, has decided to end the ban on gays serving openly in the armed services, admitting that repealing the 17-year-old prohibition will not hurt the military's ability to fight.

His decision – which was due to be officially announced yesterday – comes two weeks after service chiefs told Mr Panetta that lifting the ban would not affect the country's military readiness.

The move fulfils a 2008 campaign promise by President Barack Obama, who signed the law last December.

It triggered vehement opposition by some in Congress and initial reluctance from military leaders, who feared it could erode troop cohesion on the battlefield.