Appeals Court issues temporary suspension of gay ban injunction

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday issued a temporary suspension of a federal judge's halt to the ban on openly gay people serving in the military.

The Obama administration asked the appeals court to issue a temporary stay on the injunction of "Don't ask, don't tell" law.

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The move by the Justice Department came one day after U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips refused to suspend the order to halt the ban on openly gay people serving in the military.

Phillips last week barred the enforcement of the "Don't ask, don't tell" law. Phillips ordered the Department of Defense to halt investigations and discharges of military members stemming from the Clinton-era law. The case that won the nationwide injunction is Log Cabin Republicans v. United States of America. The federal judge last month issued a final ruling that "Don't ask, don't tell" was unconstitutional.

Gay rights groups, rankled by the Obama administration's decision to challenge the judge's decision, are warning gay military members that the Clinton-era ban is once again in effect.

“This interim temporary stay means that ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is once again on the books, and is likely to be enforced by the Defense Department," said Aubrey Sarvis, the executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. "Gay and lesbian service members deserve better treatment than they are getting with this ruling."

Obama promised to repeal the ban during the 2008 presidential election campaign. The Pentagon is now reviewing the implications repeal would have on the troops. That review is due Dec. 1. By deciding to appeal the California judge's decision, Obama is putting pressure on Congress to scrap the law.

Lawmakers are in the middle of a tense midterm election season in which Republicans are expected to gain a large number of seats in the House and erode the Democrats’ majority in the Senate. That could make any agreement on repealing the law a tough proposition in Congress since most Republicans are opposed to repeal.  

The House has successfully included legislation to repeal “Don’t ask, don’t tell” in the 2011 defense authorization bill, but the Senate has yet to act on that legislation.