US military now accepts gay applicants: Pentagon

But the military will tell potential recruits that a law barring openly gay members -- known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" -- could still be reinstated depending on the outcome of pending court decisions, spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said yesterday.

"Recruiters have been given guidance, and they will process applications for applicants who admit they are openly gay or lesbian," she told AFP. "Recruiters are reminded to set the applicants' expectations by informing them that a reversal in the court's decision of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law/policy may occur," she said in an email.

A federal judge in California, Virginia Phillips, last week ordered the government to immediately suspend the rule, which requires gay troops to keep quiet about their sexual orientation or face expulsion.

The Justice Department has applied for a stay that would suspend the legal order until an expected appeal can be heard. An advocacy group for gay service members warned those in the military and those considering joining to refrain from revealing their sexual orientation until the matter is fully resolved in the courts.

"During this interim period of uncertainty, service members must not come out and recruits should use caution if choosing to sign up," Service Members Legal Defence Fund (SLDN) chief Aubrey Sarvis. "The 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' law is rooted in any statement of homosexuality made at anytime and to anyone. A higher court is likely to issue a hold on the injunction by Judge Phillips very soon," Sarvis said in a statement.

"The bottom line: if you come out now, it can be used against you in the future by the Pentagon." Although President Barack Obama has called for scrapping the 1993 law and tried to persuade Congress to end the ban, the court order has put his administration in a bind as it tries to carry out a review of the issue.

Obama had ordered a year-long review of how ending the ban would affect military readiness, effectiveness and unit cohesion, which is due to be completed on December 1.
In a memo sent out last week to secretaries of the US Army, Navy and Air Force, Under Secretary of Defence for Personnel and Readiness Clifford Stanley said the Defence Department "will abide by the terms of the injunction" from the federal judge.

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