Today, a federal district court judge in the Central District of California held that the federal government’s policy of barring lesbian, gay, and bisexual people from serving openly in the military violates the United States Constitution. In a sweeping decision, Judge Virginia Phillips ruled that the government’s policy—popularly known as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell—is unconstitutional on its face, and must be struck down. The decision details the voluminous evidence presented by the plaintiffs about the harm caused by the government’s policy. The court held that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell violates the fundamental rights of lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members without advancing any important government interest. The court held that the law also violates lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members’ First Amendment rights because it forces them to be silent about the most basic information about their identities, family relationships, and daily activities, and prevents them from seeking protection from harassment and discrimination. The case was brought by the Log Cabin Republicans on behalf of its members and included testimony from a number of service members affected by the policy.
The decision will not take effect immediately. Judge Phillips asked the plaintiffs to submit a proposed judgment, including a permanent injunction against enforcement of the law, by September 16, 2010. If upheld on appeal, the decision would prevent the federal government from enforcing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell against any service member.
Statement by NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell:
“Today’s decision by Judge Phillips—following other recent decisions striking down California’s Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act–is another landmark victory for LGBT Americans. Once again, those who seek to defend discriminatory government policies failed to present a shred of evidence to justify laws that are based entirely on prejudice and fear. After considering the overwhelming evidence presented by the plaintiffs, Judge Phillips held that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell inflicts severe harm on lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members who put their lives on the line to protect and serve our country, while undermining our national security by requiring the discharge of loyal, qualified, and highly trained personnel. This decision puts another nail in the coffin of official government discrimination based on sexual orientation. It is past time for our country to include LGBT Americans as equal citizens, and today’s ruling is a major milestone toward realizing that goal. We congratulate and thank the Log Cabin Republicans for bringing this historic case.”