The Pentagon on Thursday announced it would comply with a federal court's ruling ordering it to stop enforcing “Don't Ask, Don't Tell,” the 1993 policy that bans gay and bisexual troops from serving openly, even as President Obama's Department of Justice began an appeal of the decision.

U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips on Tuesday granted plaintiffs, represented by gay GOP group Log Cabin Republicans, the injunction they sought after declaring the law unconstitutional last month.

In ruling against the Clinton-era law responsible for ending the military careers of more than 13,000 service members, Phillips said the policy has a “direct and deleterious effect” on the armed services.

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates on Wednesday signaled he was prepared to fight the judge's ruling when he said Congress, not a court, is responsible for ending the law.

Several media outlets, including the AP and the Washington Post, are reporting that military leaders have said they will comply with Phillips' order.

The “Department of Defense will of course obey the law,” Col. Dave Lapan, a department spokesman, told reporters.

Arguing that a court-ordered repeal of the policy would be “disruptive to military readiness,” the Justice Department asked Phillips to delay implementation of her injunction, signaling it was prepared to appeal the ruling.

“We are disappointed but not surprised to learn the Department of Justice appealed the decision by Judge Phillips and asked that the injunction not be enforced now,” Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), the largest group lobbying for repeal of the policy, said in a statement. “Judge Phillips will need to decide if the injunction stopping the investigations and discharges is on hold.”

Sarvis added that gay service members remain vulnerable.

“It is clear there is confusion and this interim period is dangerous for service members. Our service members need finality. The president needs to deliver on his promise to end the law this year.”

The ruling comes after Democrats in the Senate failed to break a Senator John McCain-led Republican filibuster on legislative repeal of the Clinton-era law.

During a question-and-answer session with young people on cabler MTV, Obama reiterated his commitment to ending the 17-year-old law.

“This policy will end, and it will end on my watch,” he said. “But I do have an obligation to make sure that I'm following some of the rules. I can't simply ignore laws that are out there.”