A new Pentagon memo cautions gay service members that even though the Defense Department is complying with a federal judge's injunction of the "don't ask, don't tell" law, they still could get in trouble if they come out of the closet while enforcement of the policy is on hold.
The warning is contained in a memo from Clifford Stanley, the defense under secretary for personnel and readiness, to the four military services. The letter advises them that because of the injunction issued Tuesday, the military is not implementing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
Though "don't ask, don't tell" is on hold, Stanley says the Pentagon will continue with its policy to not ask "service members or applicants about their sexual orientation, to treat all members with dignity and respect, and to ensure maintenance of good order and discipline."
However, it appears that if a service member were to "tell" that they were gay, they could face repercussions if the injunction is reversed.
In the memo, Stanley admits to uncertainty about the future of the "don't ask, don't tell" law and policy but cautions gay service members, "We note for service members that altering their personal conduct in this legally uncertain environment may have adverse consequences for them or others should the court's decision be reversed."
On Thursday, the Justice Department filed a request in federal court in Los Angeles for Judge Virginia Phillips to stay her injunction order that was released on Tuesday.
Stanley's memo says that while the court considers the request, "the Department of Defense will abide by the terms of the injunction."
However, Stanley seems optimistic that compliance may not last long as "it is possible that a stay of the injunction could be issued very soon, perhaps in a matter of days."
Stanley's warning echoes advice from gay advocacy groups in the wake of Judge Phillips' ruling that it might not be a good idea to come out as being gay as the legal process over the injunction follows its course.
On Tuesday, Service members United issued a recommendation to gay and lesbian troops that they should not come out in response to the injunction.
In a statement, Jarrod Chlapowski of Service members United warned, "Those who are on active duty should continue to operate as if 'don't ask, don't tell' were still in effect for now. Service members United's staff and leadership have all served under this heinous law too and we know what it's like, we know how frustrating it is. But the safest option for now for those who want to protect their careers is not to come out yet."