A US federal appeals court has granted the government’s request to temporarily maintain a ban on gays serving openly in the American military.
A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals suspended an injunction by a lower court that barred the US military from continuing its so-called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.
Lawyers for the Log Cabin Republicans, a group that wants the ban lifted and which has been behind the legal action, voiced dismay, but said they were confident of success in the end.
“While we are disappointed with the court’s ruling granting a temporary administrative stay, we view the decision as nothing more than a minor setback,” said their main lawyer Dan Woods.
The ruling temporarily reversed a decision 24 hours earlier by a lower court judge, Virginia Phillips, who ordered the US military to end its 17-year policy that requires gay troops to keep quiet about their sexuality or face expulsion.
After that judgment on Tuesday the Pentagon announced that it was accepting openly gay recruits for the first time in the country’s history, but it also warned that the ban could be reinstated – as happened.
Opponents of the ban argue that it violates the rights of gay service members and has harmed national security by forcing out some 14,000 qualified troops.
Advocates, including the outgoing head of the US Marine Corps, say it ensures “unit cohesion” and that changing the law during wartime could prove disruptive.
If the ban is lifted for good, the American military would be following the example of other US allies, including Britain and Israel, which have reported no serious problems since allowing gays to serve openly in uniform.
Polls have shown a majority of Americans support ending the ban, but Republican politicians, including former presidential candidate and war hero John McCain, opposed the most recent attempt to change the rule.