The military's ban on gay and lesbian servicemembers will be abolished by the end of this year, Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday.

Biden said that the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy would no longer be law by the end of 2010 as lawmakers begin their first hearings with military leaders today on how to repeal the policy.

"By this year's end, we will have eliminated the policy," Biden said during an appearance on MSNBC.


Biden's comment marks the most clear delineation of a deadline by which the policy would be repealed, after some lawmakers had complained that President Barack Obama's pledge to repeal the policy during his State of the Union address lacked specificity.

"This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are," Obama said in that speech.

Biden defended the move to repeal the ban in light of some critics' assertion that the administration should leave the policy in place during ongoing military efforts and other pressing issues facing the country at home.

"It's the right thing to do," Biden said.

Still, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who says he supports repealing the policy, cautioned that reviewing the change could take as long as a year by itself, setting up a longer timeline than the one Biden laid out Tuesday.