In a historic ruling a federal judge has ordered the US military throughout the country to stop enforcing its ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy.
In her judgment, District Court Judge Virginia Phillips said that the military ban on gay and lesbian service members “infringes the fundamental rights of United States service members and prospective service members”.
She further said that the policy violates the right to due process, the right to freedom of speech and the right to “petition the Government for redress of grievances guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution”.
She ordered that the United States of America and the Secretary of Defense immediately stop “enforcing or applying the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Act and implementing regulations, against any person under their jurisdiction or command”.
This comes after Phillips first ruled in September that the law was unconstitutional, but Tuesday’s landmark decision now effectively halts its implementation.
The ruling has been hailed by LGBT activists but they have also urged caution as the US government is expected to appeal the Phillips ruling. President Obama has previously said that he supports the ending of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’, but only through the legislative process via Congress.
The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network’s Legal Director Aaron Tax urged service members to “not come out at this time” as “this order will likely be appealed by the Justice Department and brought to the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit where [Phillips’] decision may well be reversed”.
Human Rights Campaign (HRC) President Joe Solmonese said that “the administration should comply with [Phillips’] order and stop enforcing this unconstitutional, unconscionable law that forces brave lesbian and gay Americans to serve in silence.”
He added: “The President has said this law harms our national security and we believe it would be a mistake to appeal the decision. Each additional day that this unjust law remains in force is one more day the federal government is complicit in discrimination.”
It is believed that more than 12,500 people have been discharged from the US military because of their sexuality since the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law came into effect in 1993.