SAN FRANCISCO – The federal government asked the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday to reconsider its order last week demanding an immediate halt to the enforcement of the ban on openly gay troops in the military.
The Obama administration filed the emergency motion in response to the appeals court's decision last week to lift its stay of a lower court's ruling last year that found the ban, known as "don't ask, don't tell," unconstitutional.
Department of Justice lawyers said in the motion that ending the ban now would pre-empt the "orderly process" for rolling back the 17-year-old policy as outlined in the law passed and signed by the president in December.
"Congress made quite clear that it believed the terms of the transition were critical to the credibility and success of this historic policy change, and to ensure continued military effectiveness," according to a statement from the Justice Department.
"Any court-ordered action forced upon the military services so close to the completion of this repeal policy pre-empts the deliberate process established by Congress and the President to ensure an orderly and successful transition of this significant policy change," the department said.
Last year's ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by the Log Cabin Republicans against the Department of Justice.
The gay rights group persuaded a lower court judge to declare the ban unconstitutional after a trial that put the Obama administration in the position of defending a policy it opposes.
The chiefs of the military services were scheduled to submit their recommendations on the repeal to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta last week. As soon as the Pentagon certifies that repealing the ban will have no effect on military readiness, the military has 60 days to implement the repeal, which could happen by September.
"It is sad and disappointing that the government continues to try to prevent openly gay and lesbian Americans from serving in our armed forces," Log Cabin Republicans attorney Dan Woods said.
"It is particularly disappointing because the President has stated that Don't Ask, Don't Tell 'weakens' our national security and signed the repeal bill with great fanfare and yet today's filing with the Ninth Circuit is a last-ditch effort to maintain this unconstitutional policy," Woods added.
The Justice Department asked the 9th Circuit to issue a decision by the end of the day Friday.