The US military’s ban on out gay soldiers has come back into force with some changes.

The ban was revived on Wednesday, just a week after a US District Judge ordered its immediate end. The Justice Department won a stay on the decision from an appeals court.

Defence secretary Robert Gates announced yesterday that the power to fire individuals who have been outed will lie in the hands of just a handful of high-ranking officials.

They are the heads of the Army, Navy and Air Force, plus the defence department’s top attorney and the undersecretary for personnel and readiness. Previously, hundreds of officers had the power to fire soldiers whose sexual orientation became known.

According to Reuters, a senior US defence official told reporters: “You should not interpret that as: We are going to [discharge] more or less people.

“We are going to elevate these decisions to ensure uniformity and care in the enforcement of the law. That’s what it is. It is what it is.”

The ban was out of action for eight days until Wednesday, prompting some veterans sacked under the law to re-enlist.

During the eight days, military recruiters were told to accept out gay applicants but warn them that the legal situation could change.

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network said the change could result in far fewer sackings.

Mr Sarvis, referring to a recent legal case, said: “This important change could dramatically reduce DADT discharges, if DoD [the defence department] applies the Witt legal standard throughout the military, which requires the Pentagon to find that gay service members would harm military readiness, unit cohesion and good order, before they are discharged.”

He added that serving gay soldiers should reveal they are gay.

“But this Pentagon guidance memo does not end DADT. It is still in place, and service members should not come out,” he said.

President Obama says he is keen to repeal the law but wants change to take place through Congress instead of the courts.