Federal judge refuses to back down on landmark ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ ruling

Virginia A. Phillips

Virginia A. Phillips

U.S. District Court Judge Virginia A. Phillips

The federal judge who issued a worldwide injunction last week ordering the U.S. military to cease enforcement of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” has tentatively rejected the federal government’s request for an emergency stay in the injunction.

U.S. District Court Judge Virginia A. Phillips said on Monday the government’s arguments seeking her to stay the injunction were vague, late, and lacked “substantive evidence” to support its case.

She said she would review the arguments from Justice Department lawyers and issue a formal ruling late Monday or early Tuesday.

In her landmark ruling on Sept. 9, Phillips declared the 17-year-old “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy infringes on the constitutional rights of free speech and due process by banning gays and lesbians from openly serving in the U.S. armed forces.

On October 12, Phillips ordered the “United States of America and the Secretary of Defense immediately to suspend and discontinue any investigation, or discharge, separation, or other proceeding, that may have been commenced under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Act, or pursuant to 10 U.S.C. § 654 or its implementing regulations, on or prior to the date of this Judgment.”

Government attorneys had asked Phillips for the temporarily halt while they appealed, saying that forcing an abrupt change of policy could damage troop morale at a time of war.

But Phillips said the Justice Department did not present evidence at the trial to show how her order would cause irreparable harm to U.S. troops.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon announced last Thursday that the military “will of course obey the law” and halt discharges under the policy, pending an appeal.

The Obama administration has insisted it supports ending the policy, but President has said that Congress, rather than the courts, is his preferred venue for ending a policy he has long opposed.

The U.S. House voted for repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in May, but a Republican-led filibuster blocked a Senate vote just weeks ago.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), appearing on KPNX-TV in Phoenix on Sunday, pledged to “filibuster or stop it from being brought up until we have a thorough and complete study on the effect of morale and battle effectiveness.”

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