AP sources: Panetta to OK end of military gay ban

By LOLITA C. BALDOR | July 21, 2011 | 6:59 PM EDT

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta walks out to greet John Key, Prime Minister of New Zealand, at the Pentagon Thursday, July 21, 2011 in Washington.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense officials say Pentagon chief Leon Panetta will certify that gays may serve openly in the armed services. News of his decision comes two weeks after top military leaders agreed that repealing the 17-year-old ban will not hurt military readiness.

The decision is not unexpected. The Pentagon has conducted months of internal studies and training to gauge how troops would react to the change triggered by a law passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama in December.

The Pentagon announcement is expected Friday, and Obama is expected to endorse it.

Repeal of the ban would become effective 60 days after certification, which could open the military to gays by the end of September.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision has not been made public.