From Jim Miklaszewski
Opponents of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy are celebrating today's Senate vote to dismantle the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military, but the actual repeal of the law could take up to a year to go into full effect.
In its present form, the bill states that repeal will not take effect until 60 days after Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen and President Barack Obama "certify" that the U.S. military is prepared for implementation.
Secretary Gates has predicted that the process of certification could take up to a year.
So what happens next?
Under the expected procedure, the Defense Department will conduct servicewide training and education for all active duty, reserve and national guard forces, and make whatever adjustments in procedures and facilities are necessary. Only then would Gates and Mullen certify the military is prepared to implement the repeal.
During that process, the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel would also issue a servicewide memo instructing any gay or lesbian servicemembers not to openly declare their sexual orientation because they could potentially be subject to separation from the military.
The reality is, however, that under the more stringent guidelines for enforcement of the law implemented in October, there have been no servicemembers discharged from the military. So it would be unlikely that anyone would be forced out of the military during the certification process.
Msnbc.com's Carrie Dann contributed.