Gay Troops Sit Tight While Courts Debate 'Don't Ask' After a week of legal maneuvers, it's not entirely clear whether the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy is dead or alive. The law bars openly gay people from serving in the military. A federal judge this week issued an injunction barring the Pentagon from enforcing the law; the Justice Department has asked another court to reverse the injunction. Where does that leave things?
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Gay Troops Sit Tight While Courts Debate 'Don't Ask'

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Gay Troops Sit Tight While Courts Debate 'Don't Ask'

Gay Troops Sit Tight While Courts Debate 'Don't Ask'

Gay Troops Sit Tight While Courts Debate 'Don't Ask'

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After a week of legal maneuvers, it's not entirely clear whether the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy is dead or alive. The law bars openly gay people from serving in the military. A federal judge this week issued an injunction barring the Pentagon from enforcing the law; the Justice Department has asked another court to reverse the injunction. Where does that leave things?

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, Host:

Rachel, you're going to help us sort it out. I feel almost like we should a disclaimer. You're not a lawyer.

RACHEL MARTIN: I'm not a lawyer...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: So now, Mary Louise, it's really likely up to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. They're the ones who will have to decide whether or not to grant a stay in this case. And that's the legal tool that would essentially put the injunction on hold until the court can consider the government's appeal. But it's unclear exactly when they're going to weigh in on this. It could be days or weeks and until then that leaves a lot of Don't Ask, Don't Tell cases in limbo.

LOUISE KELLY: Well, what does that actually mean? I mean have we seen any real impact just this week since this ruling came down?

MARTIN: But that's caused a lot of confusion among gay service members. They look at this injunction and say oh, Don't Ask, Don't Tell has come to a close. Is it safe for me to come out and self-identify as gay? There are other members who have been discharged under Don't Ask, Don't Tell, who say hey, may be I can go back and re-enlist. I've talked to several gay rights group who say they're fielding calls from all kinds of service members on these very questions.

LOUISE KELLY: Well, and what is the advice? What are they being told?

MARTIN: Well, they're saying this is not the time to come out and self- identify. That, as far as they're concerned, Don't Ask, Don't Tell is still the law of the land, and the policy won't be over until the appeals court rules on this case. And even then, they say there could be more battles ahead. So they're telling service members to sit tight, so is the Pentagon. It's worth noting today there was a memo that they issued warning troops not to, quote, "alter their personal conduct" in what they say is a legally uncertain environment.

LOUISE KELLY: How does that make sense?

MARTIN: But White House officials insist that this is the way things go. That any time there's a challenge made to one of Congress's laws, the Justice Department steps up and defends it. And the White House insists that the only way to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell for good is to have Congress change it through legislation, not the courts.

LOUISE KELLY: Okay. NPR's Rachel Martin, thanks a lot.

MARTIN: You're welcome.

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