Oct 12, 2010 3:50 PM by Letitia Walker
SAN DIEGO (AP) - A federal judge issued a worldwide injunction Tuesday stopping enforcement of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, ending the U.S. military's 17-year-old ban on openly gay troops.
U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips' landmark ruling was
widely cheered by gay rights organizations that credited her with
getting accomplished what President Obama and Washington politics
U.S. Department of Justice attorneys have 60 days to appeal.
Legal experts say they are under no legal obligation to do so and
could let Phillips' ruling stand.
The federal government is reviewing the ruling and has no
immediate comment, said Tracy Schmaler, spokesman for the
Department of Justice.
Phillips declared the law unconstitutional after a two-week
nonjury trial in federal court in Riverside and said she would
issue a nationwide injunction. But she asked first for input from
Department of Justice attorneys and the Log Cabin Republicans, the
gay rights group that filed the lawsuit in 2004 to stop the ban's
The Log Cabin Republicans asked her for an immediate injunction
so the policy can no longer be used against any U.S. military
personnel anywhere in the world.
"The order represents a complete and total victory for the Log
Cabin Republicans and reaffirms the constitutional rights of gays
and lesbians in the miltiary for fighting and dying for our
country," said Dan Woods, an attorney for the Log Cabin group.
Government attorneys objected, saying such an abrupt change
might harm military operations in a time of war. They had asked
Phillips to limit her ruling to the members of the Log Cabin
Republicans, a 19,000-member group that includes current and former
military service members.
The Department of Justice attorneys also said Congress should
decide the issue - not her court.
Phillips disagreed, saying the law doesn't help military
readiness and instead has a "direct and deleterious effect" on
the armed services by hurting recruiting during wartime and
requiring the discharge of service members with critical skills and
She said the law violates the free-speech and due process rights
of service members after listening to the testimonies of military
officers who have been discharged under the policy.
Legal experts say the Obama administration could choose to not
appeal her ruling to end the ban - but Department of Justice
attorneys are not likely to stay mum since Obama has made it clear
he wants Congress to repeal the policy.
"The president has taken a very consistent position here, and
that is: 'Look, I will not use my discretion in any way that will
step on Congress' ability to be the sole decider about this policy
here,' " said Diane H. Mazur, legal co-director of the Palm
Center, a think tank at the University of California at Santa
Barbara that supports a repeal.
Gay rights advocates say they worry they lost a crucial
opportunity to change the law when Senate Republicans opposed the
defense bill earlier this month because of a "don't ask, don't
tell" repeal provision.
If Democrats lose seats in the upcoming elections, repealing the
ban could prove even more difficult - if not impossible - next
Woods said the administration should be seizing the opportunity
to let a judge do what politics has been unable to do.
The "don't ask, don't tell" policy prohibits the military from
asking about the sexual orientation of service members but bans
those who are gay from serving openly. Under the 1993 policy,
service men and women who acknowledge being gay or are discovered
engaging in homosexual activity, even in the privacy of their own
homes off base, are subject to discharge.