Pentagon tells military to start accepting gays and lesbians

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

The Pentagon has told US military recruiters to begin accepting out gays and lesbians.

Last week, California-based US District Judge Virginia Phillips ruled that the gay ban must end immediately. Yesterday, she issued a final ruling refusing to stay her order while the government appeals.

The Pentagon has suspended sackings of out gay soldiers and has confirmed that military recruiters have been told not to reject candidates who declare they are gay.

Instead, new recruits who are openly gay will be warned that the legal situation may change if the Obama administration successfully argues at a higher court to temporarily keep the ban in place.

Douglas Smith, spokesman for US army recruiting command based at Fort Knox in Kentucky, told Associated Press: “If they were to self-admit that they are gay and want to enlist, we will process them for enlistment, but will tell them that the legal situation could change.”

Although President Obama supports repealing the law, he is keen to see it overturned through Congress, rather than the courts.

A review of how the ban can be lifted will be completed in December.

The Obama administration asked Judge Phillips to stay her order but she declined, saying that it had not given proof that her decision would harm the military.

Gay rights campaigners have urged the government not to appeal further.

“Judge Phillips once again did the right thing for our national security. We call on the administration not to appeal her decision,” said Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese.

“The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell rule’ is an unconscionable law that forces brave lesbian and gay Americans to serve in silence … The law is detrimental, not only to our national security, but also to the core American value of fairness,” he added.

The 1993 law was a compromise which allowed gay and lesbian people to serve in the military but required them to keep their sexual orientation secret, hence the nickname Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.