Judge Rules “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” Policy Unconstitutional

A federal judge in California ruled tonight that the “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” policy that bars openly gay service members from serving in the military is unconstitutional.

"Defendants faced the burden at trial of showing the “Don't Ask, Don't tell” Act was necessary to significantly further the Government's important interests in military readiness and unit cohesion" wrote US District Court Judge Virginia A. Phillips. "Defendants failed to meet that burden."

Phillips plans to issue a permanent injunction barring the military from enforcing the policy in approximately two weeks.

The government has a right to appeal the ruling. Officials at the Department of Justice said they are still reviewing the decision.

The case was brought by the Log Cabin Republicans, a political organization advocating equal rights for gays and lesbians. Tonight, the group's lawyer, Daniel J. Woods of White and Case, praised the ruling.

"This is a major victory in the fight for equality and now it means that military service will be available to all Americans regardless of their sexual orientation."

The case marks the first time a federal judge has found the law unconstitutional on the grounds of due process and first amendment.

Judge Phillips, a Clinton appointee, wrote: "The Don't Ask Don't Tell infringes the fundamental right of United States service members in many ways...The Act denies homosexuals serving in the Armed Forces the right to enjoy "intimate conduct" in their personal relationships. ...to speak about their loved ones while serving their country in uniform...it discharges them for including information in a personal communication from which an unauthorized reader might discern their homosexuality."

On Thursday night, R. Clarke Cooper, the executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans said: "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. Today, the ruling is not just a win for Log Cabin Republican service members, but all American service members. Hooah!"

-- Ariane DeVogue

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