Pentagon to Recruiters: Accept Applicants “Who Admit They Are Openly Gay or Lesbian”

In a sign of the wide-reaching impact of U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips’s injunction halting enforcment of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, Pentagon spokeswoman Cynthia Smith today wrote that “[r]ecruiters have been given guidance, and they will process applications for applicants who admit they are openly gay or lesbian.”

The statement provided by Smith in an email to Metro Weekly, and first reported by the Associated Press, comes on the heel of a report in The New York Times that Omar Lopez, who is an out gay man, was turned away at a recruiting station in Texas because of his sexual orientation despite the judge’s injunction resulting from the Log Cabin Republicans v. United States case.

Smith also wrote that “[r]ecruiters 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.”

To that end, the Department of Defense is awaiting a ruling from Phillips on the government’s request to stay the injunction pending the government’s appeal of the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The hearing on the stay request, held Monday afternoon, ended with Phillips giving a tentative ruling against granting the stay.

Smith noted, as reported earlier by Metro Weekly, “On Oct. 15, Undersecretary for Personnel and Readiness Clifford Stanley sent a memorandum reinforcing DoD’s policy 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.”

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network executive director Aubrey Sarvis urged caution in a statement, saying, “During this interim period of uncertainty, service members must not come out and recruits should use caution if choosing to sign up.  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.  The bottom line: if you come out now, it can be used against you in the future by the Pentagon.”

[UPDATE: Perhaps the most interesting bit of information regarding today's announcement came from The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder, who noted, "Pentagon's general counsel made the decision." The general counsel is Jeh Johnson. Johnson is the co-chair of the Pentagon working group charged with presenting a report to Defense Secretary Robert Gates by Dec. 1 on implementing DADT repeal. Assuming Ambinder's reporting to be accurate, then the co-chair of the working group made the decision that, with guidance to recruiters, the change in recruiting policy could be made immediately.]

[FURTHER UPDATE: Lt. Dan Choi, discharged from the U.S. Army earlier this year, has tweeted that he is on his way to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps. David Badash writes that Choi said, "It's a day of celebration," while waiting outside the enlisting office in New York City.]

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