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Pentagon suspends enforcement of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

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By Kelsey Williams,  SFGate:

Today, the Pentagon announced that it is suspending its “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”  policy in compliance with Wednesday’s appeals court ruling that the military stop the policy banning openly gay servicemen and women.

According to the memo, released Friday afternoon to all secretaries of military departments, the military must halt all separations of gay troops and begin accepting applications from men and women who identify as homosexual.

Fox 5 Atlanta reports:

The memo, was sent to all secretaries of military departments and signed by Clifford L. Stanley, the US undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness said the Department of Defense “will process applicants for enlistment or appointment without regard to sexual orientation.”

The memo also stated, “It remains the policy of the Department of Defense not to ask Service members or applicants about their sexual orientation, to treat all members with dignity and respect, and to ensure maintenance of good order and discipline.”

Back in December, President Obama signed a repeal of the 1993 policy, which had led to the discharge of approximately 14,500 servicemen and women in the past 18 years, according to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

At that time, Pentagon officials said they would begin implementing the new policy, and the administration said they expected the process to be complete by the end of the year.

However, in April, the Obama administration asked the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to allow the policy to remain in place until the Pentagon was ready.

On Wednesday, the Court of Appeals lifted its stay on the repeal and ordered the military to stop enforcement of the policy, calling it unconstitutional and discriminatory to gay Americans.

Army Times reports, “the law will be formally repealed 60 days after the defense secretary and chairman of the joint Chiefs ‘certify’ that it will not impact military readiness.”

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates anticipates that certification by late July or early August.

In the meantime, defense officials are preparing by implementing training programs to help troops understand the law and make the transition as smooth as possible. Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen Lainez said most of that training should to be completed by this summer, but there is no requirement that 100 percent of the force must be trained prior to repeal.

Even if there is still some time to wait for the official repeal, this announcement is one more step toward the end of a policy of discrimination, one that has cost the military millions of dollars and thousands of highly qualified men and women.

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Vlae Kershner

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