President Obama lauded the Senate for taking a "historic step" on Saturday by moving forward with a repeal of the "Don't ask, don't tell" law.

"As Commander-in-Chief, I am also absolutely convinced that making this change will only underscore the professionalism of our troops as the best led and best trained fighting force the world has ever known," Obama said in a statement.

The president singled out Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), the co-sponsors of the standalone bill, for thanks.

"It is time to recognize that sacrifice, valor and integrity are no more defined by sexual orientation than they are by race or gender, religion or creed," Obama said. "It is time to allow gay and lesbian Americans to serve their country openly. I urge the Senate to send this bill to my desk so that I can sign it into law."

The Senate passed the bill Saturday afternoon and was headed to Obama's desk to be signed into law.

"I am pleased to see the Congress vote to repeal the law governing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' " Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen said in a statement. "Handling this through legislation preserves the military's prerogative to implement change in a responsible, deliberate manner."

—This post was updated at 7:15 p.m.