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July 15, 2011

Court order halts ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’

San Francisco--The Department of Defense was ordered on July 6 to cease enforcement of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy by an appeals court that had previously issued a stay of their order that stopped discharges under the regulation.

The Pentagon said it would comply with the order, meaning “don’t ask” is now completely halted, indefinitely.

The three-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals noted in its order that the stay it had originally placed on a lower court’s ruling overturning DADT was no longer necessary, since Congress repealed the policy at the end of last year and the military itself is in the final stages of training personnel on the repeal.

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates estimated before leaving office last month that certification of the training,  the last major step before the repeal becomes official, could happen as soon as the end of July or August. The final step is a 60-day wait built into the repeal legislation.

The court’s decision called an immediate halt to all discharge proceedings on the basis of sexual orientation, and while the Department of Justice was given until July 21 to decide if it would continue to defend DADT in court, a July 6 story from the American Forces Press Service written by Jim Garamone noted, “The Defense Department will comply and is informing commands worldwide of the court’s order, Pentagon spokesman Marine Corps Col. Dave Lapan said.”

Military branch heads were scheduled to give recommendations on repeal to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on July 8. Once the president, defense secretary and chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify that repeal will not negatively affect combat readiness, the policy will cease to exist 60 days later.

Army Times’ Andrew Tilghman reported on July 8 that recruiters will begin accepting applications from out gay men and lesbians in the wake of the appellate court order. He repeated Gates’ estimate that certification would occur in late July or early August, but noted that it was unclear if the Pentagon would bother appealing the court order.

Pentagon spokesperson Eileen Lainez noted that, while training in the repeal would be complete by the end of summer, there is no requirement that it be complete for the repeal to be certified.

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