ABC News' Luis Martinez reports:
With the repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" in the homestretch, a federal appeals court has barred the military from continuing to enforce the law that bans gay servicemembers from serving openly .
The ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco will likely throw a wrench in the Pentagon’s ongoing plan to implement a repeal of the "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" law within a matter of months.
Under the repeal law passed by Congress last December the President, the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs Chairman have to certify that the readiness of the force would not be impacted by a repeal of the law which remains in place. That certification would trigger a 60 day clock that would then lead to full repeal. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in media interviews before he left the Pentagon that he expected that certification to take place sometime in July. It’s unclear how the court’s ruling will affect that plan.
The ruling drew this response from Pentagon Spokesperson Cynthia Smith, “ We are studying the ruling with the Department of Justice.” She added, “We will of course comply with orders of the court, and are taking immediately steps to inform the field of this order. In the meantime, implementation of the DADT repeal voted by the Congress and signed in to law by the President last December is proceeding smoothly, is well underway, and certification is just weeks away.”
The three-judge panel ruled Wednesday that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell must be lifted because the Obama administration has stated that it is unconstitutional to treat gay Americans differently under the law. Gay advocacy groups have hailed today’s court’s decision.
The ruling comes in a case involving the gay advocacy group known as the Log Cabin Republicans which scored a similar victory last October when a federal judge ruled the law unconstitutional and ordered the Pentagon to stop implementing the law. That ruling triggered a period of confusion when the law was no longer in effect.
At the time, Gates argued that legislation repealing the law would be preferable to a chaotic situation that might be created by a court immediately lifting the ban. He argued that would allow the Pentagon to come up with a plan for training its servicemembers and changing rules on the books that needed to be changed.
With Congress passing that repeal legislation in December, the military services earlier this year began a training regimen for their servicemembers about what the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would mean for them. Senior officers have reported few problems during that training.
Since the repeal law was implemented, only one servicemember has been discharged from the military, and that involved an airman who wanted to voluntarily leave the Air Force under the law. Since then, three other airmen have stepped forward also requesting a discharge under the law.