The Pentagon issued guidance to troop commanders on Thursday to obey a court order lifting the ban on gays serving openly in the military, while the Justice Department requested an emergency stay of a federal judge’s injunction stopping enforcement of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
On Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Virginia A. Phillips issued a nationwide injunction ordering the U.S. military to immediately cease enforcement of “Don’t ask, Don’t tell,” the 17-year-old ban on openly gay and lesbian service members.
The Pentagon today said the military “will of course obey the law” and halt discharges under the policy, pending an appeal.
“The [Defense] Department will abide by the terms in the court’s ruling, effective as of the time and date of the ruling,” said Pentagon spokesman spokesman Marine Col. David Lapan.
“Earlier today, the staff judge advocate generals from the military services, in consultation with the Office of the Secretary of Defense Office of General Counsel, sent to their service staff judge advocate counterparts in the field an e-mail informing them of the ruling by Judge Virginia Phillips of the Central District of California, issuing an injunction barring the enforcement or application of 10 United States Code 654, commonly known as the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ statute,” Lapan said in a statement.
Justice Department lawyers have asked Phillips for an emergency stay of her order, and filed a formal appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, seeking review of Phillips’ decision
The plaintiffs in the case, the Log Cabin Republicans — a gay conservative organization representing 19,000 current and former military members — said it wasn’t surprised by the appeal and said it will promptly oppose the government’s proposed stay.
In the meantime, gay rights advocates are warning gay service members that they are still “at risk,” and to avoid revealing their sexuality in the meantime.
The Service Members Legal Defense Network re-issued its warning on Thursday advising gay and lesbian service members not to “come out.”
“With a federal district court issuing a military-wide injunction against investigating or discharging service members under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and repeal sitting before the Senate, it is critical that service members still do NOT come out. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members continue to remain vulnerable under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the SLDN warned.
At a town hall meeting today, President Barack Obama was challenged on whether he remains committed to equality.
He responded that he can’t end the ban with the stroke of a pen, but added, “we’re going to end this policy.”
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Wednesday the best way to end the policy is for the “Senate to follow the lead of the House of Representatives.”
The U.S. House voted for repeal in May, but a Republican-led filibuster blocked a Senate vote just weeks ago.
Echoing Gibbs’ statement, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he believes the decision should lie in the hands of Congress, and only after the Pentagon completed their study of the issue.