WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court in California temporarily reinstated the "don't ask, don't tell" policy while it considers an Obama administration appeal of a lower court judge's ruling that the military's ban on openly gay service members is unconstitutional.
The decision marks the second time in the past week that federal courts have ruled on the legality of the 17-year-old policy, leaving the military in disarray over how to abide by the law. Last week, a district court judge issued an injunction calling for a worldwide end to the policy.
In the one-page finding issued Wednesday night, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is considering the government appeal, didn't explain why it issued the stay. Instead, the court simply wrote: "The order is stayed temporarily in order to provide this court with an opportunity to consider fully the issues presented."
The Obama administration sought a stay while the Defense Department completes a year-long study on how to implement a repeal.
"For the reasons stated in the government's submission, we believe a stay is appropriate," the Pentagon said in a statement.
The Pentagon had suspended cases against soldiers charged with openly being gay or lesbian after last week's injunction. In addition, the military began welcoming openly gay and lesbian soldiers seeking to join.
Former soldiers who'd been discharged under the policy attempted to re-enlist this week, including former Army Lt. Dan Choi, an Iraq War veteran and one of the most outspoken opponents of the policy.
U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips issued the injunction against "don't ask, don't tell" after she found that the policy violated service members' First Amendment rights.
It's unclear when the appeals court will make a final ruling on the government's appeal.