gay_flag_lede.jpgA federal appeals court in San Francisco today ordered the U.S. armed services to stop discharging openly gay people from the military.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals lifted a stay it imposed last fall of an injunction issued by a federal judge in Los Angeles against the government’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

The 1993 policy bars military officials from asking about service members’ sexual orientation, but requires the discharge of those who declare themselves to be gay or engage in homosexual activity.

The now-reinstated injunction issued by U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips bars enforcement of that policy.

Ruling in a lawsuit filed by the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay rights group, Phillips said the policy violates gay service members’ constitutional rights of privacy and free speech.

Meanwhile, in December Congress passed and President Obama signed a law repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

But under the law, the repeal does not go into effect until 60 days after the U.S. secretary of defense and joint chiefs of staff chairman have certified that the repeal will not harm military readiness.

The Justice Department had asked the court to continue the stay while the repeal is being carried out on the grounds that abruptly halting the discharge policy would be disruptive.

In today’s two-page order, a three-judge panel of the appeals court said a stay can no longer be justified.

“The circumstances and balance of hardships have changed, and (the government) can no longer satisfy the demanding standard for issuance of a stay,” the court said.

The panel noted that the Justice Department has told the court that it is not arguing that “don’t ask, don’t tell” is constitutional, that the process of repeal is “well under way,” and that the most of the armed forces will be trained in the new policy by mid-summer.

The panel, made up of Chief Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski and Judges Kim Wardlaw and Richard Paez, said it will hear further arguments in the case in Pasadena the week of Aug. 20.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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