A gay sailor who was outed has been told by a military panel that he can stay in the Navy.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Derek Morado, 26 told reporters that the three-member panel apparently agreed with his lawyer’s argument that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is now dead.

He said he was “surprised” but “ecstatic” at Thursday night’s decision.

His lawyers argued that Navy Secretary Ray Mabus would be unlikely to approve the discharge because the policy – which bars gay troops from revealing their sexuality – is to be lifted imminently.

Morado, who joined the military at the age of 17, was outed in 2009 by a colleague.

He had posted a picture of himself on MySpace kissing another man, who he says was just a friend.

The sailor was supported by gay group GetEqual.

Director Robin McGehee said in a statement: “Today was a victory, and we’re grateful to Derek for lending his story and his voice to highlight the fact that servicemembers are still facing the discharge process, even 100 days after the law was repealed.”

President Obama signed an order to end the ban last December but it will stay in place until military chiefs certify it can be lifted without damaging the services.

There is no set date for Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to end, although the president has said troops will serve openly by the end of the year.

Gay troops have been warned to stay in the closet for now.