Federal judge strikes down 'Don't Ask Don't Tell'

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Central District of California [official website] on Thursday struck down [opinion, PDF] the US military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) [10 USC § 654; JURIST news archive] policy, which bans openly gay individuals from the armed services. The suit [case materials; LCR backgrounder] was initiated in 2004 by the Log Cabin Republicans [advocacy website], who argued that the policy violates individuals' First Amendment and Due Process rights. Judge Virginia Phillips agreed, holding that the less deferential standard identified by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Witt v. Department of the Air Force [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] applied to the instant case, rather than the more permissive rational basis standard. Effectively, the government faced the burden of demonstrating that DADT is necessary to further the government's important interests of military readiness and unit cohesion, a burden Phillips held it failed to meet. Phillips is set to draft an injunction against the policy within a week, giving the government a chance to respond. This case presented the biggest legal test for DADT in recent years, and was unique in that it attacked the policy in general rather than on the basis of individual complaints.

Phillips began the trial [JURIST report] in July. Last month, a US military officer filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] seeking to enjoin the military from discharging him under DADT. In May, the House of Representatives and the Senate Armed Services Committee [official websites] voted to repeal the policy after President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates agreed to a compromise [JURIST reports] that would prevent the repeal from taking effect until the completion of a review to determine what effects the repeal would have on military effectiveness, soldier retention and family readiness. Also in May, A CNN poll [results, PDF] released found that 78 percent of American adults believe that homosexuals should be able to serve openly in the military. In March, Gates announced changes to the enforcement [JURIST report] of the policy to make it more difficult to expel openly gay service members from the military.

 

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