Virginia A. Phillips

  • September 10, 2010
    The federal court decision that the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," (DADT) policy is unconstitutional is unlikely to dampen efforts to repeal it. The decision issued late yesterday by U.S. District Court Judge Virginia A. Phillips said the policy subverts the Constitution's First and Fifth Amendments. But the decision, as reported by The New York Times, will not immediately change the policy. Parties in the lawsuit were encouraged by the judge to file briefs supporting and opposing a proposed injunction of the ruling. Judge Phillips wrote, "The don't ask, don't tell policy infringes on the fundamental rights of United States service members in many ways. In order to justify the encroachment of these rights, defendants faced the burden at trial of showing the don't ask, don't tell act was necessary to further the government's important interests in military readiness and unit cohesion. Defendants failed to meet that burden."

    Aubrey Sarvis, head of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), a group involved in urging Congress to repeal DADT, said, "We're pleased by the judge's decision, but this decision is likely to be appealed and will linger for years. Congress made the DADT law 17 years ago and Congress should repeal it. The Senate will have the opportunity to do just that this month and most Americans think the Senate should seize it."

    Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said in a press statement that the ruling "affirms what so many of us already know: ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' should end, and for good reason: it is discriminatory, outdated and unfair." She continued, "Our nation's political leaders must end this unjust law once and for all. The lives and livelihoods of dedicated service members hang in the balance."

    The Palm Center, a think tank at the University of California, Santa Barbara, which has produced reams of material on the ineffectiveness of DADT, said the ruling should add pressure to lawmakers to repeal the law.

    Palm Center Director Aaron Belkin called the decision "historic," and said it "makes clear that there is no legal or military justification for banning gay service in the military. It now comes down to the Senate in September. A vote on the Defense Authorization bill would allow the Pentagon to put forward a new policy of non-discrimination in 2011."

    For a detailed history of DADT and the efforts to repeal it see video of an ACS panel discussion, which includes Sarvis and Nathaniel Frank, a leading researcher and author about DADT. Frank talked with ACSblog following the event about DADT and its effect on the military and gay service members. His interview is available here.