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Gay service members cautioned after 'don't ask, don't tell' ruling

By Jennifer Rizzo, CNN Pentagon Producer
Former Army Lt. Dan Choi, who is openly gay, goes Wednesday to a Times Square recruiting office in New York to re-enlist.
Former Army Lt. Dan Choi, who is openly gay, goes Wednesday to a Times Square recruiting office in New York to re-enlist.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Pentagon tells recruiters to accept applicants who say they are gay
  • That follows court actions after a judge banned enforcement of "don't ask, don't tell"
  • Groups representing gays and lesbians say a higher court could reverse the ban
  • Groups say gays and lesbians in military should still be careful about coming out

Washington (CNN) -- Groups representing gay and lesbian service members are warning recruits and service members eager to come out to the military to tread carefully a day after the Pentagon gave recruiters top-level guidance to accept applicants who say they are gay.

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network says a number of people have called its hot line asking questions about the federal injunction against enforcing the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

About a dozen people called the organization Tuesday night interested in re-enlisting after seeing other people in the media start the recruiting process, according to Trevor Thomas, a spokesman for the group.

Thomas says SLDN's No. 1 piece of advice is to exercise caution for gays and lesbians who want to come out to the military when signing up, warning that a higher court is likely to issue a hold on the injunction.

Video: W.H. appeals order lifting 'don't ask'
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For active-duty service members, Thomas says SLDN is very clear that they are not to come out at this time.

"If a judge in a higher court stays the ruling, 'don't ask, don't tell' will become law again," Thomas said. "The Pentagon could use their statement of homosexuality against them."

The Obama administration filed a request with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Wednesday to stay the lower court injunction.

Obama requests emergency stay

Despite the warning, OutServe -- an underground gay service members group -- says many in the military who aren't following the day-to-day developments feel the don't-ask-don't-tell policy is officially over, resulting in many instances where people are asking each other if they are gay or lesbian.

An Air Force officer and OutServe co-founder, who asked to be identified only under the alias J.D. Smith, says he came out to two fellow service members after being asked if he was gay.

"Straight service members and going up to people and asking are you gay and are you a lesbian, the policy is now over," said Smith. "At unit levels peer-to-peer we are seeing people come out, but we are still hiding it from the leadership level. Discussion in units has all been pretty positive."