President Barack Obama hailed Tuesday the end of the ban on openly gay or lesbian people from serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.

"Today, every American can be proud that we have taken another great step toward keeping our military the finest in the world and toward fulfilling our nation's founding ideals," he said in a communique distributed by the White House at U.N. headquarters in New York, where Obama is taking part in a top-level meeting on the future of Libya.

He recalled that in December he signed the repeal of the 1994 Don't Ask, Don't Tell law because ending the prohibition "would enhance our national security, increase our military readiness, and bring us closer to the principles of equality and fairness that define us as Americans."

More than 13,500 gay and lesbian service members have been discharged from the Armed Forces since President Bill Clinton enacted DADT.

Though DADT was repealed last December, the measure remained in force because the Pentagon first had to undertake an extensive period of certification and preparation for enacting the new guidelines.

From now on, the Pentagon will allow openly gay men and women to serve in the military without fear of reprisals or expulsion from the Armed Forces.

According to a study by the UCLA School of Law's Williams Institute, gays and lesbians account for 2.2 percent of living active-duty and retired military personnel.