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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

“‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ banned by federal judge”

WASHINGTON — A California federal district judge Tuesday ordered the U.S. military to stop enforcing “”don’t ask, don’t tell”” worldwide, calling it unconstitutional.

However, it remains unclear whether the military will begin enforcing the injunction by 9th District Court Judge Virginia Phillips immediately. Pentagon officials said that department lawyers were reviewing the ruling, as was the Justice Department.

President Barack Obama has pledged to end the policy, which permits gays and lesbians to serve in the military only if they keep their sexual orientation private. Otherwise they’re to be discharged.

The ruling presents Obama with a delicate choice. Appealing the decision would offend gays and civil libertarians, who are important Democratic constituency groups. Letting the decision stand unchallenged could intensify conservative opposition to his party and him with congressional elections three weeks away. Polls show widespread rejection of the Democrats’ agenda.

Last month Phillips, a Bill Clinton appointee, ruled that the prohibition is unconstitutional in a lawsuit brought by lawyers for the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay group. In her 85-page ruling, Phillips said she’d issue an injunction, which she did Tuesday.

Log Cabin Republicans “”established at trial that the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ act irreparably injures service members by infringing their fundamental rights,”” Phillips wrote, adding that the law violates the First Amendment.

The federal government has 60 days to appeal her decision. The Obama administration had said previously that the law should be repealed by Congress, not the courts, but it declined to say Tuesday whether it would appeal the ruling.

“”The Department of Justice is studying the court’s ruling. Any specific questions about this pending litigation should be directed to the Department of Justice,”” the White House said in a statement.

At the Pentagon, “”Our lawyers, in consultation with the Department of Justice, are looking at it now to see what it means,”” said spokesman Col. David Lapan.

Gay-rights advocates hailed the ruling as the end of the 17-year-old policy.

The injunction could increase pressure on Congress to repeal the law. Last month, the Senate set aside the defense authorization bill after repeal proponents tacked on an amendment to end “”don’t ask, don’t tell.”” Republicans opposed the amendment and blocked efforts to end debate and vote on the bill.

The Senate is expected to take up the bill again, with a repeal amendment attached, after the Nov. 2 elections.

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