Published: Jul 06, 2011 8:41 PM EDT
Updated: Jul 06, 2011 7:42 PM EDT

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - A federal appeals court has barred further enforcement of the U.S. military's ban on openly gay service members.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said Wednesday the "don't ask, don't tell" policy must be immediately lifted now that the Obama administration says it's unconstitutional to treat gay Americans differently under the law.

The ruling was the latest legal development in the long-running effort to end the policy by gay rights supporters.

The panel also noted that Congress repealed the policy in December and that the Pentagon is preparing to certify that it is ready to welcome gay military personnel.

It was not immediately clear what effect the court's ruling, which came in a lawsuit filed by a gay rights group, on the timeline for eliminating the ban.

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