Nine people were charged with trespassing yesterday after staging a sit-in protest when four openly gay college students weren’t allowed to enlist in the U.S. Army.

The four students — Jessica Arvidson, Stacey Booe, Matt Hill Comer and Alex Nini — were participating in the Right to Serve campaign, a national effort by the group Soulforce protesting the federal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

The policy dates back to 1993, when President Bill Clinton suspended a Department of Defence policy banning gays and lesbians from the military.

The compromise from this was “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” under which the military was not to inquire about the sexual orientation of prospective service members, and gays and lesbians were not to reveal their sexual orientation.

Under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” those who did or were “found out” would be subject to dismissal.

Members of the military must abide by the U.S. Code, said Major Stewart Upton, a press officer for the Department of Defence, in the Greensboro News Record . “Under that policy, any person who has stated that they are a homosexual or bisexual cannot be allowed entry into the U.S. military services based upon the applicable laws and regulations governing sexual conduct by members of the armed forces.”

Regarding the protesters, Major Upton said: “the Department of Defence supports and defends the constitutional right of all U.S. citizens to free speech and peaceful assembly.”