Six months after completing the legislative repeal process for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the outgoing Pentagon chief is just about ready to certify the formal end of the discriminatory policy.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates says he sees no barriers to ending the ban on gays in the military and would endorse ending it before he leaves the Pentagon later this month if top military service chiefs say troops are ready for the change.

The policy known as “don’t ask, don’t tell” will be repealed once President Obama certifies — in consultation with Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen — that the military is ready to lift the ban.

“I think people are pretty satisfied with the way this process is going forward,” Gates said in an interview with the Associated Press on Monday. “I think people have been mildly and pleasantly surprised at the lack of pushback in the training.”

That’s good to hear, though it was far less encouraging last night when the subject came up during the debate for the Republican presidential candidates.

CNN’s John King wanted to know if the White House hopefuls, if elected, would bring DADT back, leave Obama’s policy intact, or pursue some other alternative. Here were the answers in the order they were delivered:

* Herman Cain: opposed DADT repeal, but said it would be a “distraction” to try to bring it back.

* Tim Pawlenty: dodged the question, vowed to “pay deference to our military commanders.”

* Ron Paul: would leave Obama’s policy in place, but rejects the notion of “gay rights.”

* Mitt Romney: dodged the question, said he opposed DADT repeal.

* Newt Gingrich: dodged the question, said he would bring DADT back if commanders asked him to.

* Michele Bachmann: dodged the question, vowed to “confer with our commanders-in-chief” if she’s elected president.

* Rick Santorum: the only candidate to explicitly vow to bring DADT back.

I’d just remind the GOP field that the political fight really is over, and reason won. Implementation continues apace; polls show Americans supporting the DADT policy’s demise, and there’s nothing Republicans can do to bring the old policy from coming back.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.