SAN DIEGO — A federal judge ordered the military Tuesday to immediately stop enforcing its ban on openly gay troops, bringing the 17-year "don't ask, don't tell" policy closer than it has ever been to being abolished.
Justice Department attorneys have 60 days to appeal the injunction but did not say what their next step would be.
President Barack Obama has backed a Democratic effort in Congress to repeal the law, rather than in an executive order or in court.
But U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips' injunction leaves the administration with a choice: Continue defending a law it opposes with an appeal, or do nothing, let the policy be overturned, and add an explosive issue to a midterm election with Republicans poised to make major gains.
Department of Justice and Pentagon officials were reviewing the judge's decision and said they had no immediate comment.