Military recruiters told to accept gay applicants, as gov't appeals court decision

A Pentagon spokeswoman says recruiters have been told that they must accept gay applicants, following a federal court decision striking down the ban on gays serving openly in the military.

Spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said Tuesday that top-level guidance has been issued to recruiting commands informing them that the military's "don't ask, don't tell" rule has been suspended for now. Recruiters also have been told to inform potential recruits that the moratorium could be reversed at any point.

Last week, a federal judge ordered the military to stop enforcing the 1993 law banning openly gay service members. The Justice Department is appealing the decision and has asked for a temporary stay.

U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips said Monday that she was leaning towards denying that stay.

"My tentative ruling is to deny the application for a stay," Phillips said at the start of Monday's hearing.

Phillips said the government has not proven that her order would harm troops or in any way impede efforts to implement new regulations for the military to deal with openly gay service members.

If she rejects the request, Justice Department officials say the Obama administration would appeal. Experts say they will likely find friendlier venues in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco and, ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court.

"The farther the decision gets from the presentation of evidence in the trial court, the more likely it is that courts will assume the military must have some critically important interest at stake," said Diane Mazur, a law professor who opposes the policy.

The military has promised to abide by the injunction against the "don't ask, don't tell" policy as long as her order remained in place.

Government attorneys had asked Phillips to suspend her order while they appealed, saying that forcing an abrupt change of policy could damage troop morale as they fought two wars.

The military has promised to abide by the order as long as it remains in place, but gay rights advocates have cautioned service members to avoid revealing their sexuality in the meantime. The Pentagon also has cautioned gay troops against coming out in the current "legally uncertain environment."

In interviews, several gay service members have told The Associated Press that the current legal limbo renders it unwise to come out now.