|Last year President Obama signed a landmark law repealing the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy [Reuters]
A US court has advanced the cause of gays and lesbians serving in the military by ordering the authorities to end a policy that prevented them from serving openly.
Barack Obama, the US president, last year signed a landmark law repealing the "Don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) policy that forced gays to keep their sexual orientation secret if they wanted to be in the military.
The Pentagon has been in the process of writing rules for the new policy.
However, the ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday could speed up that process.
The issue of military service has long been a key issue for the gay community, along with same-sex marriage.
"At this very moment someone could go into a recruiting office and say they were an openly gay or lesbian individual, and hypothetically that recruiting office should enlist that individual," said David Cruz, a professor at University of Southern California Gould School of Law.
Last year, a California district court judge found that the DADT policy violated the US Constitution and issued an injunction.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals put that injunction on hold as the Department of Justice appealed the ruling.
Even with Obama's support for ending the 18-year-old policy, Obama's justice department asked the appeals court to keep the injunction in place to give the military more time to prepare for admitting gay soldiers.
On Wednesday, a three judge-panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals noted that the process of repealing DADT is now "well under way".
The government "can no longer satisfy the demanding standard" to keep the injunction on hold, the court ruled.
The Pentagon said it was still studying the ruling, but added it would comply with the court order.
Dave Lapan, a military spokesperson, said the US military was immediately taking "steps to inform the field of this order.
Still, the court order came just weeks before the US military was expected to certify that troops were ready for the repeal, the final bureaucratic hurdle before the policy was abolished.