Thirteen gay rights activists were due to appear in a US federal court today over protests against the military gay ban.

The 13 campaigners, including eight veterans, are charged with violating the orders of a federal law enforcement officer.

If convicted, they could face up to six months in prison.

They were arrested in November for chaining themselves to the White House fence.

Mara Boyd, 29, who was part of the protest, was sacked by the Air Force in 2003 for violating Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

She told the Washington Post: “I was tired of empty promises and delays and politicians – including our president – telling me and other gay veterans and service members to just wait your turn, that other things are more pressing.”

In December, the US Senate finally voted to repeal the 17-year ban.

However, it may take months before gay soldiers are permitted to serve openly and those fired can re-apply to join the military.

Military officials are currently considering how to rewrite policies around the change, then Obama, Defence Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm Mike Mullen must certify that the ban can be lifted without damaging the military.

Following this certification, 60 days must pass before repeal officially takes place.