Military recruiters told to accept gay applicants

The military is accepting openly gay recruits for the first time in U.S. history, even as it tries in the courts to slow the movement to abolish its ban on gays serving openly.

At least two service members discharged for being gay began the process to re-enlist after the Pentagon's Tuesday announcement.



Meanwhile, a federal judge in California who overturned the 17-year "don't ask, don't tell" policy last week rejected the government's latest effort to halt her order telling the military to stop enforcing the law. Government lawyers will likely appeal.



With the recruiting announcement, the barriers built by an institution long resistant and sometimes hostile to gays had come down.



The movement to overturn the 1993 Clinton-era law gained speed when President Barack Obama campaigned on its repeal. The effort stalled in Congress this fall, and found new life last month when U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips declared it unconstitutional.



"Gay people have been fighting for equality in the military since the 1960s," said Aaron Belkin, executive director of the Palm Center, a think tank on gays and the military at the University of California Santa Barbara. "It took a lot to get to this day."



The Defense Department has said it would comply with Phillips' order and had frozen any discharge cases. Pentagon spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said recruiters had been given top-level guidance to accept applicants who say they are gay.



AP interviews found some recruiters following the order and others saying they had not heard of the announcement.



Recruiters also have been told to inform potential recruits that the moratorium on enforcement of the policy could be reversed at any time, if the ruling is appealed or the court grants a stay, she said.



Gay rights groups were continuing to tell service members to avoid revealing that they are gay, fearing they could find themselves in trouble should the law be reinstated.



"What people aren't really getting is that the discretion and caution that gay troops are showing now is exactly the same standard of conduct that they will adhere to when the ban is lifted permanently," Belkin said. "Yes, a few will try to become celebrities."



An Air Force officer and co-founder of a gay service member support group called OutServe said financial considerations are playing a big role in gay service members staying quiet.



"The military has financially trapped us," he said, noting that he could owe the military about $200,000 if he were to be dismissed.



The officer, who asked not to be identified for fear of being discharged, said he's hearing increasingly about heterosexual service members approaching gay colleagues and telling them they can come out now.



He also said more gay service members are coming out to their peers who are friends, while keeping it secret from leadership. He said he has come out to two peers in the last few days.



An opponent of the judge's ruling said confusion that has come up is exactly what Pentagon officials feared and shows the need for her to immediately freeze her order while the government appeals.



"It's only logical that a stay should be granted to avoid the confusion that is already occurring with reports that the Pentagon is telling recruiters to begin accepting homosexual applicants," said Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, a conservative advocacy group based in Washington that supports the policy.



The uncertain status of the law has caused much confusion within an institution that has historically discriminated against gays.



Before the 1993 law, the military banned gays entirely and declared them incompatible with military service. There have been instances in which gays have served, with the knowledge of their colleagues.



Under the 1993 "don't ask, don't tell" policy, the military cannot inquire into service members' sexual orientation and punish them for it as long as they keep it to themselves.



Twenty-nine nations, including Israel, Canada, Germany and Sweden, allow openly gay troops, according to the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay rights group and plaintiff in the lawsuit before Phillips.



The Pentagon guidance to recruiters comes after Dan Woods, the group's attorney, sent a letter last week warning the Justice Department that Army recruiters who turned away Omar Lopez in Austin, Texas, may have caused the government to violate Phillips' injunction. Woods wrote that the government could be subject to a citation for contempt.



The White House has insisted their actions in court do not diminish Obama's efforts to repeal the ban in Congress.



In their stay request, government lawyers argue Phillips' order would be disruptive to troops serving at a time of war. They say the military needs time to prepare new regulations and train and educate service members about the change.



Phillips has said her order does not prohibit the Pentagon from implementing those measures. She said the government failed to prove any harm to troops because the policy has been lifted.



The judge also said safeguarding constitutional rights outweighed the government's unproven concerns of the order's impact on military readiness and unit cohesion.



"Defendants merely conclude, without explanation, that 'confusion and uncertainty' will result if the injunction remains in place," she said in her ruling. "Thus, defendants have failed to establish they are likely to suffer irreparable injury if a stay is not granted."



Her decision Tuesday would send the case to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.



Douglas Smith, spokesman for U.S. Army Recruiting Command based at Fort Knox, Kentucky, said even before the ruling recruiters did not ask applicants about their sexual orientation. The difference now is that recruiters will process those who say they are gay.



"If they were to self-admit that they are gay and want to enlist, we will process them," Smith said, adding that the enlistment process takes time. "U.S. Army Recruiting Command is going to follow the law, whatever the law is," he said.



The message, however, had not reached some recruiting stations.



In Pensacola, Florida, Marine Sgt. Timothy Chandler said he had been given no direction. "As far as we are concerned everything is the same. The policy hasn't changed," he said, as others in the office nodded.



Chandler said no one had come to the small office questioning the policy or asking about being openly gay and serving.



Recruiters at the Navy office next door referred all media questions to the Pentagon. Air Force recruiters said they were not authorized to talk to the media. Army recruiters referred questions to another office in Mobile, Alabama.



In New York's Times Square, Dan Choi, a 29-year-old Iraq War veteran who was discharged for being gay, began the process to enlist in the Army.



In San Diego, Will Rodriguez, a former Marine who was discharged under the policy in 2008, gave his contact information to recruiters. He said they told him there were no slots for troops of his category but they promised to call him in January when more may become available.



After Phillips' ruling last week, Lopez — discharged from the Navy in 2006 after admitting he was gay to his military doctor — walked into an Army recruiting office in Austin and asked if he could re-enlist.



He said he was up front, even showing the recruiters his Navy discharge papers. But they told him he couldn't re-enlist because they had not gotten word from the Pentagon to allow openly gay recruits.



The Pentagon spokeswoman was unable to confirm the account. She said guidance on gay applicants had been issued to recruiting commands on Oct. 15.



On Tuesday, upon hearing of the changes to recruiting, Lopez said, "Oh, my God! I've been waiting for this for four years."

Lopez said he'll try again Friday and will go to a Navy recruiting office in Austin to see if he can enroll in the Reserve Officers Traing Corps as an officer at his college . He is currently studying hospitality services at a college.

"I'm really hoping they can accept me," he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there