'Don't ask, don't tell' is back

The Defense Department has declared that "don't ask, don't tell" is once again the law of the land but has set up a new system that could make it tougher to get fired for being openly gay.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Thursday ordered that all firings under the 1993 law must now be decided by one of the four service secretaries in consultation with the military's general counsel and his personnel chief.

The move puts the question of who can be fired for being openly gay in the hands of just five people — all of them civilian political appointees who work for an administration that thinks the law is unjust.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon says it's working to come up with new guidelines regarding gays serving in the military after a court ruling restored the "don't ask, don't tell" law, at least for now.

Defense Department spokesman Col. Dave Lapan said Thursday that he expects the guidelines be announced later in the day.

An injunction last week barring the military from following the "don't ask, don't tell" law prompted the Pentagon to order that recruiters must accept applications from gays, and military lawyers must stop prosecuting cases aimed at firing them.

But a Wednesday ruling froze that injunction. That means the military could at least temporarily return to its policy banning gays and lesbians from serving openly, while the courts continue to consider the question.