USA — Appeals Court Issues Stay on ‘Don’t Ask’ Order

WASHINGTON — The Defense Depart­ment sup­ports yesterday’s fed­er­al appeals court deci­sion to tem­porar­i­ly block a judge’s order that put an imme­di­ate end to the so-called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law that bans gay men and les­bians from serv­ing open­ly in the mil­i­tary.

“For the rea­sons stat­ed in the government’s sub­mis­sion, we believe a stay is appro­pri­ate,” Pen­ta­gon spokes­woman Cyn­thia Smith said of the 9th Cir­cuit Court of Appeals deci­sion. The three-judge pan­el yes­ter­day issued a state­ment which not­ed that it allowed the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law to stand to pro­vide more time to study the issues involved in its pos­si­ble repeal. The court set an Oct. 25 dead­line for both sides to sub­mit legal doc­u­ments for consideration. 

The high­er-court deci­sion tem­porar­i­ly sus­pends U.S. Dis­trict Judge Vir­ginia Phillips’ Oct. 12 rul­ing that the law is uncon­sti­tu­tion­al. Phillips issued an injunc­tion requir­ing the depart­ment “imme­di­ate­ly to sus­pend and dis­con­tin­ue any inves­ti­ga­tion, or dis­charge, sep­a­ra­tion or oth­er pro­ceed­ing that may have com­menced under the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Act or its imple­ment­ing regulations.” 

In its appeal, the Jus­tice Depart­ment asked that the law be rein­stat­ed, at least until a study of the impact of repeal­ing it is completed. 

The Defense Depart­ment wants a delib­er­a­tive, long-range look at any changes in the law, Pen­ta­gon spokesman Marine Corps Col. David Lapan reit­er­at­ed ear­li­er this week. Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates set up a work­ing group to exam­ine the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of a pos­si­ble repeal of the law. The group is sched­uled to sub­mit its report Dec. 1. 

“The review that is going on would look at all the far-rang­ing impacts of what chang­ing the law would mean,” Lapan said. 

A long-range plan for chang­ing the law would include a peri­od of tran­si­tion to con­duct train­ing to ensure that every­one was informed about new poli­cies and pro­ce­dures, he said. 

In response to Phillips’ rul­ing, Pen­ta­gon offi­cials had instruct­ed recruiters to begin pro­cess­ing paper­work for open­ly gay men or les­bians to apply to serve in the mil­i­tary. But cit­ing uncer­tain­ty over final dis­po­si­tion of the mat­ter in the courts and on Capi­tol Hill, Smith warned at the time that poten­tial appli­cants need­ed to be aware that the sit­u­a­tion could change, as it has with yesterday’s appel­late court decision. 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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