The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has denied the government's request to suspend a legal challenge to “Don't Ask, Don't Tell,” the 17-year-old law that bans gay and bisexual troops from serving openly.

In a ruling issued Friday, the court ordered the Obama administration to file further arguments by February 25.

The Department of Justice has appealed U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips' September ruling striking down the law as unconstitutional. Following her ruling, Phillips issued an injunction ordering the government to stop enforcement of the law, but the appeals court set the ruling aside after 8 days, and the policy returned.

Congress approved repeal of the law last month, but the policy remains in effect until 60 days after the president and top Pentagon officials certify that the military is ready for the change.

Military officials on Friday said ending the ban by the end of the year was a reachable “goal” and emphasized that the policy remains in effect.

The Log Cabin Republicans, the gay GOP group behind the legal challenge, had opposed the department's effort to put the case on hold.

“We said all along to the government we would drop our case if they would cease all discharges and remove all barriers to open service,” R. Clarke Cooper, the group's president, told the AP.