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US army begins accepting openly gay recruits

world Updated: Oct 20, 2010 12:51 IST

The United States Army, for the first time is admitting openly gay and lesbian candidates into its ranks, in line with a court ruling that suspended a ban on homosexuals serving openly in the military.

On Friday, instructions were e-mailed to recruiters saying that they must inform applicants that there was a suspension of the "don't ask don't tell" policy, The New York Times reported.

This move follows from a decision, earlier this month, when a federal court judge moved against the US military practice of barring openly gay people from joining the armed forces by halting the 'don't ask, don't tell policy'.

The 17-year-old policy "infringes the fundamental rights of United States service members and prospective service members," wrote Judge Virginia A Phillips of Federal District Court for the Central District of California.

Further noting that the policy violated their rights of due process and freedom of speech, Judge Phillips, issued an injunction "to suspend and discontinue" immediately any investigations or proceedings to dismiss members of the armed services.

President Barack Obama has urged the US Congress to appeal the law. Defense Secretary Robert M Gates has also spoken out against the law.

The government has 60 days to file an appeal but on Tuesday, Judge Phillips ruled that she was denying requests by the government to maintain the status quo during the appeals process, The Times reported.

The Pentagon has stated its intent to file an appeal in case of such a ruling, according to NYT, but meanwhile, it has started complying with Judge Phillips's instructions.

Cynthia Smith, a Pentagon spokeswoman, did not address whether a recruit who volunteered that he was gay during the present moratorium of 'don't ask, don't tell' might face expulsion from the military if the decision were appealed.

Dismissing the situation as hypothetical, Smith said only that recruiters had been reminded that "they need to set expectations by informing the applicant that a reversal for the 'don't ask, don't tell' law may occur".

Meanwhile, the suspension went into play all over the country and military recruiters were adjusting to the change in policy.

Dan Choi, who was discharged from the Army under 'don't ask, don't tell,' tried to re-enlist at the Armed Forces Recruiting Station in Times Square, NYT reported.

"They're processing me," Choi said, when he came out of the recruiting station.