It wasn’t easy, and it took too long, but as 12:01 a.m. this morning, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ceased to be the policy of the United States. The nation will be stronger, safer, fairer and more just going forward than it was yesterday.

President Obama issued a statement on the formal repeal this morning.

“Today, the discriminatory law known as ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is finally and formally repealed. As of today, patriotic Americans in uniform will no longer have to lie about who they are in order to serve the country they love. As of today, our armed forces will no longer lose the extraordinary skills and combat experience of so many gay and lesbian service members. And today, as Commander in Chief, I want those who were discharged under this law to know that your country deeply values your service.

“I was proud to sign the Repeal Act into law last December because I knew that it would enhance our national security, increase our military readiness, and bring us closer to the principles of equality and fairness that define us as Americans. Today’s achievement is a tribute to all the patriots who fought and marched for change; to Members of Congress, from both parties, who voted for repeal; to our civilian and military leaders who ensured a smooth transition; and to the professionalism of our men and women in uniform who showed that they were ready to move forward together, as one team, to meet the missions we ask of them.

“For more than two centuries, we have worked to extend America’s promise to all our citizens. Our armed forces have been both a mirror and a catalyst of that progress, and our troops, including gays and lesbians, have given their lives to defend the freedoms and liberties that we cherish as Americans. Today, every American can be proud that we have taken another great step toward keeping our military the finest in the world and toward fulfilling our nation’s founding ideals.”

Looking back over the last 32 months, I still consider this one of the president’s breakthrough legislative accomplishments, especially since success was far from assured.

Obama for America also released a terrific video overnight honoring the occasion.

Is the struggle for equality, even in the military, over? Clearly not. If Republican candidates excel in next year’s elections, could DADT make a comeback? I suppose it’s possible.

But the arc of history is long, and of this morning, it’s bending much closer towards justice.

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.