A day after the Defense Department reported that they were accepting applications from openly gay recruits, a federal court panel reversed the lower court decision to halt "don't ask, don't tell."
On Wednesday, a 3-person Federal court panel upheld the government's appeal of the decision by US District Court Judge Virginia Phillips of California who denied the government's request for an emergency stay of her order barring the military from expelling openly gay service members. The Pentagon had already sent orders to the recruiting commanders that it was okay to accept applications from openly gay and lesbians candidates.
The military began to execute that order on Tuesday, but they cautioned recruits that they might not be able to serve for long, as they intended to fight the courts on the decision.
Douglas Smith, spokesman for US Army Recruiting Command based at Fort Knox, KY, told the Associated Press of the cautious approach new recruits must take in admitting they are openly gay.
"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," Smith said. "US Army Recruiting Command is going to follow the law, whatever the law is at the time.”
Even the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, sent a statement out reiterating the concern.
"During this interim period of uncertainty, service members must not come out and recruits should use caution if choosing to sign up," SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis said in the statement. "The bottom line: if you come out now, it can be used against you in the future by the Pentagon."
Several former military servicemen and servicewomen, who were discharged for being gay or lesbian tried to re-enlist during this period.
Omar Lopez – discharged from the Navy in 2006 after admitting his gay status to his military doctor – tried at a recruiting office in Austin, TX. Lopez was denied by a polite group of officers who said they couldn’t help him without receiving proper orders from their commanders.
"They just said, `I can't let you re-enlist because we haven't got anything down from the chain of command,'" Lopez, 29, told the AP in a telephone interview. "They were courteous and apologetic, but they couldn't help me."
Former Army Lt. Daniel Choi, an Iraq war combat veteran who has become a popular figure in the "don't ask, don't tell" debate, moved to rejoin the military Tuesday afternoon. "I'm here because I want to serve my country," he said.
The latest ruling gives the parties in the case until October 25 to file new documents.
"The order is stayed temporarily in order to provide this court with an opportunity to consider fully the issues presented," said the appellate panel's ruling.
Aubrey Sarvis, an Army veteran and executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, told CNN.com the court's ruling means the military will indeed begin enforcing "don't ask, don't tell."
"Gay and lesbian service members deserve better treatment than they are getting with this ruling," Sarvis said. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Human Rights Campaign also expressed disappointment and called for an end to "don't ask, don't tell."
President Obama continues to insist that the long-standing policy will end on his watch, but he wants it done in an orderly fashion. Thus, he's comfortable with the appeal as it gives the government more time to figure out the right steps to take.
"I agree with the basic principle that anybody who wants to serve in our armed forces and make sacrifices on our behalf, on behalf of our national security, anybody should be able to serve," he told a young audience at the MTV, BET, CMT town hall meeting last week.