The Associated Press reports that a federal judge in Southern California has declared the U.S. military’s ban on openly gay service members unconstitutional because the ban violates the First Amendment rights of gays and lesbians.
U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips said Thursday she will issue an injunction that would halt the enforcement of the government’s ”don’t ask, don’t tell’‘ policy nationwide.
Phillips says the policy doesn’t help military readiness and instead has a ”direct and deleterious effect.”
The Log Cabin Republicans filed the lawsuit in 2004. Phillips says she will draft the injunction with input from the group within a week and the government will have a week to respond.
Judge Phillips said the policy “doesn’t help military readiness and instead has a ”direct and deleterious effect” on the armed services,” according to AP.
Government lawyers argued Phillips lacked the authority to issue a nationwide injunction and the issue should be decided by Congress.
The U.S. House voted in May to repeal the policy, and the Senate is expected to address the issue this summer.
”Don’t ask, don’t tell” prohibits the military from asking about the sexual orientation of service members, notes AP, but requires discharge of those who acknowledge being gay or are discovered engaging in homosexual activity, even in the privacy of their own homes off base.
Log Cabin Republicans said more than 13,500 service members have been fired since 1994.
Citing closing arguments made in the case, AP reports that Attorney Dan Woods, who represents the group, contended that the policy violates gay military members’ rights to free speech, due process and open association.
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.
U.S. Department of Justice attorney Paul G. Freeborne argued that the policy debate is political and the issue should be decided by Congress rather than in court.
Six military officers who were discharged under the policy testified during the trial, reportes AP. A decorated Air Force officer testified that he was let go after his peers snooped through his personal e-mail in Iraq.
Lawyers also submitted remarks by Obama stating ”don’t ask, don’t tell” weakens national security.