Court temporarily reinstates "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

LOS ANGELES Sat Jul 16, 2011 5:19pm EDT

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A federal appeals court has reversed itself and temporarily reinstated the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy on gays in the military, but it has blocked the Pentagon from significant enforcement of the policy.

In an order issued late on Friday, a three-judge panel of the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with a request by President Barack Obama's administration to temporarily reinstate the policy against allowing openly gay men and women to serve in the military.

The government has said it needs more time to prepare for an end to the controversial policy.

Obama signed legislation in December to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," but the bill gave the Pentagon an unlimited time frame to implement the change, leading up to a final "certification" of the repeal.

In the meantime, a separate challenge to the policy had advanced in the federal court system, where last week the 9th U.S. Circuit Court panel upheld a lower-court decision declaring "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" unconstitutional and ordered the military to immediately lift the ban.

In their latest ruling, the judges said that, based on information provided by government lawyers, senior military officials have made plans to end "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and that certification will be presented to Obama by the end of July or in early August.

The judges' three-page order also states that only one military service member has been discharged for being openly gay since the passage of the repeal act in December.

The judges stated that "in order to provide this court with an opportunity to consider fully the issues presented in light of these previously undisclosed facts" it was temporarily reinstating the policy.

But the order also blocks the military "from investigating, penalizing or discharging anyone from the military pursuant to the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy."

The policy dates from 1993, when then-President Bill Clinton signed the directive into law as a compromise with the military to end an outright ban on gay service members that had been in force for decades.

More than 13,000 men and women have been expelled from the military under the policy since it was instituted by Clinton.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Jerry Norton)

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