SEAFORD - President Barack Obama signed today a landmark law repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which would allow gay men and women to serve openly in the military for the first time.

Brett Stout, a 32-year-old former Marine from Seaford, left the military in 2002 because he says he was tired of hiding the fact that he was gay.

Since then, Stout has become an outspoken advocate of doing away with the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which had forced an estimated 14,000 American soldiers to leave the military since it went into effect 17 years ago. This morning, just before signing the bill that repealed the policy, Obama called it a moment two centuries in the making.

David Kilmnick, the head of Long Island Gay and Lesbian Youth (LIGALY), says the repeal sends an unmistakable message about tolerance and equality.

"It was a victory for civil rights and human rights," he says. "And when civil rights and human rights are afforded to any group in our society, everybody wins."

The change won't be immediate, however. The bill requires the military service chiefs to complete implementation plans before lifting the old "don't ask, don't tell" policy - and certify to lawmakers that it won't damage combat readiness, as critics charge.

About 30 countries, including England, France, Germany and Israel, now allow gays to serve openly in the military.

Associated Press reports contributed to this article.

LI Talks: Repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell'