A federal appeals court on Monday indefinitely extended its freeze on a judge's order halting enforcement of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted the U.S. government's request for a stay while it challenges the trial court's ruling that the ban on openly gay service members is unconstitutional.
The same panel, composed of two judges appointed by President Ronald Reagan and one appointed by President Bill Clinton, on Oct. 20 imposed a temporary hold keeping "don't ask, don't tell" in place.
In an eight-page order, the judges said they were persuaded by the Department of Justice's argument that U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips' worldwide injunction against the 1993 policy "will seriously disrupt ongoing and determined efforts by the Administration to devise an orderly change of policy."
Monday's decision means gay Americans who disclose their sexual orientations still can't enlist in the armed forces and can be discharged.
It also heightens pressure on the Obama administration to persuade the U.S. Senate to repeal the 1993 law before a new Congress is sworn in.
The court ordered the government to submit its brief in its broader appeal by Jan. 24 and gave Log Cabin Republicans, a gay rights group that sued to overturn "don't ask, don't tell" in Phillips' court, until Feb. 22 to reply. It did not schedule oral arguments in the case.