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US court setback for gays in military

A Federal appeal court has frozen a judge's order halting the military's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy, even as the Pentagon has announced it will accept openly gay recruits.

A three-judge panel of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily granted the US government's request for a freeze on the judge's order. The court instructed lawyers for the gay rights group that brought the lawsuit successfully challenging the policy to file arguments in response by Monday.

The judges would then decide whether to extend the temporary stay while it considers the government's appeal of US District Judge Virginia Phillips' ruling that the policy was unconstitutional.

The 1993 "Don't ask, don't tell" rule says gays may serve but only if they keep secret their sexual orientation.

President Barack Obama said last week that the law that came into effect under President Bill Clinton "will end on my watch" but added that "It has to be done in a way that is orderly, because we are involved in a war right now." He said he supports repeal of the policy, but only after careful review and an act of Congress.

It was unclear what effect the temporary freeze would have on the Pentagon, which has already informed recruiters to accept openly gay recruits and has suspended discharge proceedings for gay service members. Cynthia Smith, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said "We believe a stay is appropriate."