[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HyEy8zgnhwo[/youtube](CNN) — A federal appeals court sided with the government Monday, allowing the military to maintain its “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy during an appeal of a lower court ruling that the law barring openly gay and lesbian soldiers is unconstitutional.

The ruling by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals means that the policy remains in place while the government appeals a federal judge’s ruling against it. One of the three judges on the panel dissented against parts of the ruling.

Either side can now appeal the panel’s ruling to the full 9th Circuit appellate court.

In Monday’s ruling, the judges said they had to weigh the harm of continuing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy against the potential harm in forcing the military to drop the policy before it is ready.

“We conclude that the government’s colorable allegations that the lack of an orderly transition in policy will produce immediate harm and precipitous injury are convincing,” the ruling said. “Colorable” means the court believes the allegations have a reasonable chance of being found valid.

“We also conclude that the public interest in ensuring orderly change of this magnitude in the military — if that is what is to happen — strongly militates in favor of a stay,” the ruling said.

The judges also noted that legislation pending before Congress to repeal the policy would render the case before them moot.

The House has passed a repeal provision, and the Senate is expected to consider it as part of a broader defense authorization bill when it returns for a lame-duck session in mid-November.

By the CNN Wire Staff
November 1, 2010 6:37 p.m. EDT