Court Orders U.S. Military to Stop Enforcing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

Yesterday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the military to stop enforcing the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law. The court’s decision reinforces last year’s ruling by federal Judge Virginia A. Phillips, who declared "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" unconstitutional and called on the government to end it immediately.

That ruling was appealed to the 9th Circuit, which issued a stay on ending enforcement of the policy until it reached a decision. Marine Col. Dave Lapan, a spokesperson for the Pentagon, said they will comply with the 9th Circuit’s ruling and are working to inform commanders in the field. Though the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was approved by Congress in late 2010, its enactment is not scheduled to occur until 60 days after President Obama, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen certify that the military is ready for the policy’s removal. Military personnel have been training for months in preparation for the change. It is uncertain how exactly the 9th Circuit’s decision will affect this plan.

Advocates for LGBT members of the Armed Forces have asserted that, while the court’s decision is a positive development in the ongoing effort to fully eradicate "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," active-duty service members should be aware that the law is still in place. The Servicemembers Legal Defense Fund (SLDN), an organization offering confidential legal services to those impacted by the discriminatory law, issued a warning to troops, saying, “The bottom line is DADT is still the law of the land, the situation is still in flux, and it is NOT necessarily safe to come out.” This point was reiterated in a statement by Jonathan Hopkins, a spokesperson for the LGBT active-duty service members’ organization, OutServe. Hopkins said, “We are cautioning our folks not to come out until it’s clear that there won’t be an appeal or other action that could jeopardize their careers.”

GLAAD will continue to monitor coverage of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" for any new developments regarding its legal status. We also encourage service members to heed the advice of advocacy groups like SLDN and OutServe while the anti-gay law remains in effect.

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