WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama is expected to sign into law next week legislation that will repeal the military's 17-year ban on openly gay troops.

As Obama puts it, "It is time to close this chapter in our history."

The Senate voted 65-31 on Saturday to pass the bill that will overturn the Clinton-era policy known as "don't ask, don't tell." Eight Republicans sided with 55 Democrats and two independents in favor of repeal. The House had passed an identical version of the bill, 250-175, earlier this week.

Minnesota's two Democratic Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken both voted for the bill.

Supporters hailed the Senate vote as a major step forward for gay rights. But Sen. John McCain who opposed the policy change blames elite liberals with no military experience for pushing their social agenda on troops during wartime.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, welcomes the repeal, saying "We will be a better military as a result."

How the military will implement the change in policy, and how long that will take remains unclear.

(Copyright 2010, The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)


PHOTO: WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 18: (L-R) Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) hold a press conference on Capitol Hill December 18, 2010 in Washington, DC. In a 65-to-31 vote the Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011, repealing the U.S. military's 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy, which keeps openly gay and lesbian service members from serving. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)