Obama Files Emergency Stay On 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Ruling

One day after discharged Lt. Dan Choi attempts to re-enlist, White House requests a more 'orderly repeal.'

When the Pentagon told military recruiters on Tuesday that they must accept gay recruits, Lt. Dan Choi was one of the first to line up. Choi, a gay Iraq war veteran who was discharged from the National Guard in July for violating the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, hit New York's Times Square on Tuesday afternoon to re-enlist after a federal judge issued an injunction that effectively ended the controversial rule that prevents LGBT soldiers from serving openly.

Choi has become one of the most visible advocates for the repeal of DADT, and on the first day in U. S. history that the military was ordered to accept openly gay soldiers, he was among a handful of former soldiers who attempted to re-enlist. While recruiters were told they could not ask about a potential recruit's sexuality, if that person was otherwise qualified they were not to be turned away if it was revealed that they were gay.

"Today is a great day we can all celebrate," Choi said after filling out the paperwork, according to ABC News. "I'm very excited to be in service to this country."

The turn-around came after Federal Judge Virginia Phillips issued an injunction on October 12 that imposed an immediate ban on the military's policy, which has been in place since 1993. Last week, the Justice Department asked for a stay on Phillips' ruling while it considers an appeal. In the meantime, gay rights advocates have discouraged gay service members from revealing their sexuality until the case is settled.

Early Wednesday afternoon (October 20), though, CNN reported that the Obama administration filed an emergency request with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to stop the reversal of "don't ask." While the administration reiterated that it was in favor of overturning the policy — a message President Obama repeated at last week's MTV forum — the emergency request argued that changing it abruptly, "risks causing significant immediate harm to the military and its efforts to be prepared to implement an orderly repeal of the statute."

The administration said it needs more time to work with the Pentagon on the proper way to phase out the policy. "This president has made a commitment, and it's not a question of whether that program, whether that policy will change, but when," Obama adviser David Axelrod told CNN. "We're at the end of a process with the Pentagon to make that transition, and we're going to see it through."

Meanwhile, military recruiters have been cautioning potential recruits that the moratorium on enforcement could be lifted at any time and possibly reversed if the ruling is appealed.

Choi wasn't the only ex-soldier to re-enlist on Tuesday. According to reports, former Marine Will Rodriguez attempted to do the same in San Diego after being kicked out in 2008 for being gay. In Stockton, California, Randy Miller, also honorably discharged for being gay in 2006, said he was turned away from an Army recruiting station because officials there said they'd not heard about the new policy, the New York Daily News reported.

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, the group that Lady Gaga has worked with to push for repeal of "don't ask" in the Senate this summer, issued its own warning to active duty soldiers or potential recruits as well.

"During this interim period of uncertainty, service members must not come out and recruits should use caution if choosing to sign up," the group wrote in a statement. "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."

SLDN has set up a hotline staffed with an attorney for any gay and lesbian service members or potential recruits who have any questions about the injunction or their current status. The number is 202-328-3244 x100 and anyone with additional questions is also encouraged to check out SLDN.org/StillAtRisk.