WASHINGTON — The Pentagon on Thursday halted enforcement of its "don't ask, don't tell" policy pending an appeal of a federal court order prohibiting the government from expelling gay and lesbian soldiers who disclose their sexual orientation.
The Obama administration also on Thursday asked U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips to stay her order, issued Tuesday. It's unclear, however, whether Phillips will do so.
The government last month asked her not to issue an injunction against "don't ask, don't tell" after she found that the 17-year-old policy, which bars gays and lesbians from disclosing their sexual orientation, violated service members' First Amendment rights. Phillips, however, issued the injunction on Tuesday.
If Phillips rejects the stay request, the government still could appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and ultimately to the U.S. Supreme Court, but there is no certainty on how either court would rule.
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The government asked Phillips to rule on the stay by 3 p.m. Monday.
Thursday's government action raised the stakes in the "don't ask, don't tell" debate, which has languished since President Obama called last year for Congress to repeal the 1993 law that codified the policy and has become a thorny political issue just days before the November elections. While the House has |passed repeal legislation, the Senate refused in September to consider a defense budget bill that included the repeal.