SAN DIEGO - THE military is accepting openly gay recruits for the first time in the nation's history, even as it tries in the courts to slow the movement to abolish its 'dont't ask, dont't tell' policy.

Some gay activist groups were planning to send people to enlist at recruiting stations to test the Pentagon's Tuesday announcement.

Meanwhile, a federal judge in California who overturned the 17-year policy last week was likely to reject the government's latest effort to halt her order telling the military to stop enforcing the law. The Justice Department will likely appeal if she does not suspend her order.

The Defence Department has said it would comply with US District Judge Virginia Phillips' order and had frozen any discharge cases. Pentagon spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said recruiters had been given top-level guidance to accept applicants who say they are gay.

Recruiters also have been told to inform potential recruits that the moratorium on enforcement of the policy could be reversed at any time, if the ruling is appealed or the court grants a stay, she said. While activists were going to enlist, gay rights groups were continuing to tell service members to avoid revealing that they are gay, fearing they could find themselves in trouble should the law be reinstated.

'What people aren't really getting is that the discretion and caution that gay troops are showing now is exactly the same standard of conduct that they will adhere to when the ban is lifted permanently,' said Aaron Belkin, executive director of the Palm Center, a think tank on gays and the military at the University of California Santa Barbara. 'Yes, a few will try to become celebrities.'

Recruiters told to accept gays