Federal Court Issues Worldwide Injunction Against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

October 12, 2010

As reported by the Associated Press , a federal court today issued a worldwide injunction against the enforcement of the U.S. military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy against openly gay service members.  A move to end the ban through legislation failed earlier this year due to a Republican filibuster in the Senate.

U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips declared the law unconstitutional after a two-week bench trial.  Serving as plaintiffs in the case were the Log Cabin Republicans, a 19,000-member organization that includes current and former military service members.  Judge Phillips found that the plaintiffs "established at trial that the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Act irreparably injures service members by infringing their fundamental rights."  Judge Phillips ruled that policy violates gay service members' due process rights, freedom of speech and the right to petition the government for redress of grievances guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Government attorneys argued against an injunction, saying that an abrupt change in military policy might harm military operations in a time of war. They had asked Judge Phillips to limit her ruling to the members of the Log Cabin Republicans.  Judge Phillips disagreed, finding the law hinders military readiness by having a "direct and deleterious effect" on the armed services, by hurting recruiting during wartime, and by mandating the discharge of service members with critical skills and training.

The Department of Justice has 60 days to appeal, but are under no legal obligation to do so.  Legal experts say the Department of Justice will likely appeal because President Obama has made it clear he wants Congress to repeal the policy.

In March the Center for Inquiry published a position paper calling for an immediate end to the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.  CFI's research found that maintaining DADT has significantly compromised the quality, effectiveness and readiness of the United States military. A copy of that report is available online here .