After years of debate and months of final preparations, the military can no longer prevent gays from serving openly in its ranks.

Repeal of a 1993 law that allowed gays to serve only so long as they kept their sexual orientation private took effect Tuesday at 12:01 a.m. EDT.

Some in Congress still oppose the change, but top Pentagon leaders have certified that it will not undermine the military’s ability to recruit or to fight wars.

The Army was distributing a business-as-usual statement Tuesday saying simply, “The law is repealed,” and reminding soldiers to treat each other fairly.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, scheduled a Pentagon news conference for later Tuesday to field questions about the repeal. And a bipartisan group of congressional supporters of allowing openly gay service planned a news conference on Capitol Hill.

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