In what national gay rights activists called “a dramatic breakthrough,” the White House issued a statement Monday that supports Congress repealing the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy this year.

White House endorses delayed repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

The repeal, which could see votes in the U.S. House and Senate as early as this week, would be enacted after the Pentagon completes a study on how best to implement it.

“The White House announcement is a dramatic breakthrough in dismantling ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ The path forward crafted by the president, Department of Defense officials, and repeal leaders on Capitol Hill respects the ongoing work by the Pentagon on how to implement open service and allows for a vote this week,” Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said in a press release.

Repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was a key campaign promise from President Obama to gay voters. Opponents of the military gay ban, who want legislators to pass the repeal before the end of this Congress, were frustrated when Defense Secretary Robert Gates advised Congress last month to delay “any legislative action” until the Pentagon completes a study of lifting the ban.

That study is not scheduled to be finished until December, leading to fears that a congressional vote would be put off until after the new Congress convenes in January, when vote counts could be affected by the November elections.

The White House responded Monday to Sen. Joe Lieberman’s amendment to the 2011 Defense Authorization Act.

The amendment would repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” now, but postpone implementation until the Pentagon review is complete and President Obama has certified that he, the Defense Secretary and the military Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have considered the review and determined that the plan for integrating openly gay service members “is consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces.”

According to the letter written by Peter Orzag, Director of the Office of Management & Budget, the White House supports Lieberman’s amendment because it “will allow for completion of the Comprehensive Review, enable the Department of Defense to assess the results of the review, and ensure that the implementation of the repeal is consistent with standards of military readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, recruiting and retention.”

The Washington Blade reports Representative Patrick Murphy (D-PA) is expected to introduce the amendment later this week in the House, while the Senate Armed Services Committee is projected to debate similar legislation on Thursday.

Activists have increased their efforts to bring attention to DADT in recent months. GetEQUAL, a gay-rights organization, has staged several protests in front of the White House, while Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and the Human Rights Campaign have rallied constituents and intensely lobbied for repeal.

“We are on the brink of historic action to both strengthen our military and respect the service of lesbian and gay troops,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese in a May 24 press release. “Today’s announcement paves the path to fulfill the president’s call to end ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ this year and puts us one step closer to removing this stain from the laws of our nation.”