A US appeals court has ordered the US government to stop enforcing the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ (DADT) ban on gay men and women openly serving in the military.

The Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals lifted an earlier ruling which allowed the government to temporarily enforce DADT despite the pending repeal of the act by President Barack Obama. The Pentagon had insisted that it needed to continue to enforce the ban while new rules and guidelines were drafted.

The court ruling said that as the US government as well as Congress concluded that ban was unconstitutional, it cannot be enforced.

The court ruled: “The circumstances and balance of hardships have changed, and [the government] can no longer satisfy the demanding standard for issuance of a stay.”

The Pentagon spokesperson Cynthia Smith responded by saying:“ We are studying the ruling with the Department of Justice. We will of course comply with orders of the court, and are taking immediately steps to inform the field of this order.  In the meantime, implementation of the DADT repeal voted by the Congress and signed in to law by the President last December is proceeding smoothly, is well underway, and certification is just weeks away.”

The challenge to the Pentagon’s approach was made by the Log Cabins, the LGBT wing of the Republican party. It

“We won the motion filed in the U.S. 9th Circuit to vacate that court’s stay of Judge Phillips’s injunction,” said R Clarke Cooper, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans. “This means that worldwide injunction is operative again and that DADT cannot be enforced or applied! Hooah!”

President Obama pledged to repeal the 1993 law in his 2008 election campaign but was criticised by gay groups for being slow to act.

In December, the US Senate finally voted to repeal the 17-year ban, which is known as ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ because it requires gay and lesbian troops to keep their sexuality secret.

More than 13,500 troops have been fired under the law since 1993.