Military Officially Opens Door to Gays
IU.S. Army soldiers from 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment salute during the casing ceremony for 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, the last American combat brigade to serve in Iraq, at Camp Virginia, Kuwait. The number of U.S. troops in Iraq has fallen below 50,000 for the first time since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion and ahead of the end-of-the-month deadline mandated by President Barack Obama, the American military said in a statement Tuesday. The number is a watershed _ American forces will no longer conduct combat operations in the country but are instead to train Iraqi troops and help with counter terrorism operations, if asked for by the Iraqis.
The Defense Department said Tuesday that it is accepting openly gay recruits, but is warning applicants they might not be allowed to stick around for long.
The move follows a ruling last week by a Southern California judge who struck down the law that banned gays from serving openly.
The reason the Defense Department change comes with a warning it might not last is because the Justice Department is appealing the decision. Military recruiters have been told to inform those who are openly gay that they could be declared ineligible if the law is upheld on appeal.
"U.S. Army Recruiting Command is going to follow the law, whatever the law is at the time," Douglas Smith, spokesman for U.S. Army Recruiting Command told AP.
The legal process is still in flux as of Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips, who had ordered the military to stop enforcing "don't ask, don't tell," was expected to deny the administration's request to delay her order. That would send the case to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
Published at 12:56 PM PDT on Oct 19, 2010
Copyright Associated Press / NBC Bay Area