WASHINGTON - The Pentagon is preparing to end a ban on homesexuals serving openly in the military-- the first step toward President Obama's renewed call to repeal "don't ask, don't tell."
With the eyes of the nation watching during his State of the Union address, Obama vowed at working to get the policy overturned.
"This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are," he said.
The pledge drew solid support from Democrats, who say the military cannot afford to lose the training and skills of gay service members who get kicked out.
Republicans were quick to pounce.
"I think that this way may be done with an eye toward certain political constituencies that he wanted to appeal to and not what is in the best interest of our military," Rep. Bob Goodlatte claimed.
"In the middle of two wars, we're going to start forcing people who are homosexuals to come out of the closet and make it clear to those who may be sharing the foxhole or the bunker with others," GOP Rep. Louie Gohmert added. "And the last thing people need to be thinking about are sexual thoughts when they're in a combat zone."
Those who support the repeal believe it's long overdue.
"There have been thousands and thousands of men and women who have been discharged from the military for no reason other than their sexual orientation," Winnie Stachelberg of the Center for American Progress said.
They say the change won't hurt the military and point to America's NATO allies serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. All but the U.S. and Turkey allow gays to serve openly.
"Put men and women in the armed services are fighting and dying with openly gay and lesbian service members and it is not a problem," Stachelberg continued. "And so quite frankly this discussion about breaking the back of the all-volunteer armed forces is a little bit of hyperbole."
But critics say when it comes to setting an example, the U.S. sets the bar for service.
"We should not be modeling after ourselves after these militaries," said Tommy Sears of the Center for Military Readiness. "We are the gold standard. They should be modeling themselves after us."
The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee says he's unsure whether the repeal could pass, but he plans to schedule the first hearing on "don't ask, don't tell" with testimony from the Pentagon's top brass next month.