SAN FRANCISCO (AP) â€” A federal appeals court ordered the U.S. government on Wednesday to immediately cease enforcing the ban on openly gay members of the military, a move that could speed the end of the 17-year-old rule.
Congress repealed the policy in December and the Pentagon is already preparing to welcome gay military personnel, said the ruling from a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. There’s no longer any purpose for a stay the appeals court had placed on a lower court ruling that overturned “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the judges said.
In the meantime, the court order blocks the military from discharging anyone based on sexual orientation, a Pentagon spokesman said, news that brought relief from gay rights advocates who say there are still dozens of gay or lesbian personnel under investigation.
“The ruling …removes all uncertainty â€” American servicemembers are no longer under threat of discharge as the repeal implementation process goes forward,” said R. Clarke Cooper, Log Cabin Republicans executive director.
The Pentagon will comply with the court order and is taking immediate steps to inform commanders in the field, said spokesman Col. Dave Lapan.
The next step: the official end to “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
Defense officials said the chiefs of the military services are scheduled to submit their recommendations on the repeal to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Friday. As soon as the Pentagon certifies that repealing the ban will have no effect on military readiness, the military has 60 days to implement the repeal.
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