A federal judge ordered the military to stop enforcing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law that has been used to discharge gay service members, putting at least a temporary halt to the 17-year-old policy.
Tuesday’s order by U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips in Riverside, Calif., applies across the U.S. and would halt proceedings against service members suspected of violating the policy, which aims to bar openly gay people from the military.
Protesters, in favour of repealing the U.S. military’s “Dont Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, line the motorcade route of President Barack Obama in Los Angeles April 19, 2010.
The order poses a dilemma for the Obama administration and Democratic leaders in Congress. They want to undo the 1993 law, but Senate Republicans blocked an effort last month to vote on a repeal.
The administration now must decide whether to appeal Judge Phillips’s ruling, which establishes by judicial fiat the result Democrats were seeking through legislative action. The Justice Department is generally obligated to defend laws passed by Congress, and an appeal is likely.
Congress is now in recess until after the midterm elections. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.), who favors repealing don’t ask, don’t tell, has said he wants to bring the issue up during the lame-duck session of Congress after the elections.
Judge Phillips ruled last month that the law violated the constitutional rights of service members. The case was brought by the Log Cabin Republicans, a group that supports gay rights.
A federal judge in California this afternoon issued a broad injunction barring the military from enforcing its “don’t ask don’t tell” policy, aimed at prohibiting openly gay people from serving in the military. Ashby Jones explains.
The military has continued to discharge gay and lesbian service members this year—administrative procedures that the injunction will now halt. The military has resisted earlier attempts by Democrats in Congress to pass a temporary moratorium on discharges while a repeal is being considered.
The Justice Department and the Pentagon said they were studying the ruling.
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