A federal appeals court on Wednesday ordered the U.S. government to immediately cease enforcing the longstanding ban on openly gay members of the military.
In a brief two-page order, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said “don’t ask, don’t tell” must be lifted now that the Obama administration has concluded it’s unconstitutional to treat gay Americans differently under the law.
The decision may recharge a movement that got somewhat bogged down this spring while the Pentagon schooled troops, in a massive classroom effort, on the law passed by Congress and signed by the president in December that will end the military’s 17-year-old gay ban.
The chiefs of the military services have yet to give the necessary certification that the forces are ready for the change, and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates – a powerful champion of allowing gays to serve openly – recently left his position.
“Hopefully once again we’ll see that this strong message from the courts will influence speeding up this process,” said recent University of San Diego graduate Joseph Rocha, a gay former sailor who is awaiting his chance to apply to be become a Marine Corps officer.
Rocha was a witness in the lawsuit brought by the Log Cabin Republicans to challenge “don’t ask, don’t tell. ” U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips in Riverside last year ruled in their favor that the military’s gay bay was unconstitutional, but the 9th Circuit then issued a stay of her ruling. That stay was removed Wednesday.