A Pentagon spokeswoman says recruiters have been told they must accept gay applicants, following a federal court decision striking down the ban on gays serving openly in the military, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.
As The Advocate reported last Thursday, the Department of Defense issued new orders via e-mail late Thursday afternoon informing all five branches of the military that they must comply with an injunction ordered by a federal judge on enforcement of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” according to Pentagon spokeswoman Cynthia Smith.
“The Department of Defense will of course obey the law, and the email noted that, in the meantime, the Department will abide by the terms in the court's ruling, effective as of the time and date of the ruling,” Cynthia Smith said in an e-mail. “Earlier today, the Staff Judge Advocate Generals [J.A.G.] from the Military Services, in consultation with the OSD Office of General Counsel, sent to their Service Staff Judge Advocate counterparts in the field an email informing them of the ruling by Judge Virginia Phillips of the Central District of California.”
The guidance came more than 48 hours after Judge Phillips initially placed the injunction on the policy — too late for gay veterans, like Omar Lopez, who were anxious to reenlist when they first got wind of the policy’s suspension.
“I got overly excited about the ruling,” said Lopez, a 29-year-old Navy veteran who had been discharged under the policy and is now in his second year at Austin Community College in Texas. “I decided I’m already in college, I might as we well go and enlist in the ROTC program.”
Just after noon on Wednesday, Lopez went to an Army recruiting office at 2025 Guadalupe Street in Austin with a videographer in tow and talked to a recruiter but was turned away.
The recruiter, who asked to not be filmed but is audible in the video, told Lopez of the injunction, "But you got to understand — the news, I mean that's just publicity, that doesn't necessarily mean that the change has happened. That's just something that they're talking about, right? And they've been talking about that for months now." (Video of his attempt, taken by Michael Diviesti and provided by the LGBT civil rights group GetEQUAL, can be viewed here.)
Lopez later told The Advocate that the recruiters didn't seem to know of the injunction.
“Any changes in policy hadn’t been disclosed to them, so they had to turn me away,” Lopez said, adding that they suggested he shouldn’t trust everything he reads in the media. “They said, you should wait for an actual order form the president saying the policy’s been lifted.”
Lopez’s case, first reported in The New York Times Thursday morning, prompted Log Cabin Republicans attorney Dan Woods to send a letter to the Department of Justice just before 2 p.m. Eastern time Thursday.
“Please let us know immediately what steps the government has taken to communicate the terms and requirements of the Court's order to military personnel, including field commanders and military recruiting offices, who are in a position to violate the requirements of the injunction under the cover of ignorance of its terms of existence,” he wrote.
If the reports were true, Woods continued, “the Department of Defense would appear to be in violation of the Court's injunction and subject to citation for contempt.”
Around 2:30 p.m., White House press secretary Robert Gibbs assured reporters at the briefing that the Pentagon would be addressing the matter of DOD compliance with the injunction shortly.
“The Department of Defense is working on the guidance for the entire chain of command that should be out soon,” he said.
Pentagon spokespeople informed the press just before 4 p.m. Eastern that the staff JAG had sent an e-mail to all service branches informing them that the military would "abide by the terms in the court's ruling."