The Defense Department said Friday it would start accepting applications from gay military recruits after a federal appeals court ordered it to stop enforcing the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.
In a memo to the secretaries of the military branches, Clifford L. Stanley, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, directed them to comply with the court injunction immediately.
"It remains the policy of the Department of Defense not to ask service members or applicants about their sexual orientation, to treat all members with dignity and respect, and to ensure maintenance of good order and discipline," the memorandum read in part. "Further, because the injunction is once again in effect, the department will process applications for enlistment or appointment without regard to sexual orientation."
The Pentagon has also ordered a halt to all separations of gay troops, according to the Army Times.
The order came two days after a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ordered the U.S. government to immediately cease enforcing the law barring openly gay men and women from serving in the armed forces. The appeals court noted that Congress repealed the policy in December and that the Pentagon is preparing to certify that it is ready to welcome gay military personnel.
It remains unclear whether the Pentagon will appeal Wednesday's ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, though an appeal seems unlikely since the Obama administration already is committed to repealing the rule.
Gay rights advocates said without an appeal, the government now is barred from discharging gay or lesbian service members anywhere in the world.
Meanwhile, defense officials will continue to prepare for the law’s formal repeal, which will be 60 days after the defense secretary and chairman of the Joint Chiefs “certify” that it will not adversely impact military readiness, the Army Times reported.
The Department of Defense issued a 1982 policy stating that homosexuality was incompatible with military service. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was introduced as a compromise measure in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, who campaigned on the promise to allow all citizens to serve in the military regardless of sexual orientation.