News (USA)

Federal judge rules ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ unconstitutional

A federal judge in Riverside, CA on Thursday declared the military’s ban on allowing openly gay men and women to serve in the military unconstitutional.

U.S. District Court Judge Virginia A. Phillips says it violates the First and Fifth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, and said the policy doesn’t help military readiness and instead has a “direct and deleterious effect” on the armed services.

The judge agreed with plaintiffs in the lawsuit, filed by the Log Cabin Republicans — a group of 19,000 current and former military members — that the policy violates the rights to free speech, due process and open association.

“As an American, a veteran and an Army reserve officer, I am proud the court ruled that the arcane ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ statute violates the Constitution,” said R.Clarke Cooper, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans & Liberty Education Fund.

“Today, the ruling is not just a win for Log Cabin Republican service members, but all American service members.”

The ruling is expected to intensify political pressure in Washington to act on legislation to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell,” which remains stalled in the Senate despite support from President Obama and the Democratic congressional leadership. [Los Angeles Times]

Log Cabin Republicans said more than 13,500 service members have been fired since 1994.

Attorney Dan Woods, who represents the group, said in closing arguments of the non-jury trial that the policy violates gay military members’ rights to free speech, due process and open association. [AP]

He also argued that the policy damages the military by forcing it to reject talented people as the country struggles to find recruits in the midst of a war.

Phillips indicated she would issue an injunction barring the government from enforcing the policy.

Despite President Barack Obama’s criticism of the policy, the U.S. Department of Justice, which vigorously defended “don’t ask, don’t tell” during the two-week trial, will have an opportunity to appeal that decision.

[ The full 86-page decision is here (PDF). ]

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