A federal judge in California Tuesday permanently enjoined
the United States military from enforcing anywhere in the world its controversial "don't ask, don't tell" personnel policy toward gay and lesbian service members.
The same judge last month had ruled
that the policy that prevented gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military, initiated and implemented by Congress and the Clinton Administration in 1993, violated those troops' constitutional rights under the First and Fifth Amendment.
In a three-page order, U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips enjoined "Defendants United States of America and the Secretary of Defense, their agents, servants, officers, employees, and attorneys, and all persons acting in participation or concert with them or under their direction or command, from enforcing or applying the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Act and implementing regulations, against any person under their jurisdiction or command."
Phillips, sitting in Riverside, Calif., had presided over a challenge to the policy brought by the gay advocacy group, Log Cabin Republicans. In September, she ruled that the policy did not "significantly further" government interests while discriminating against military personnel solely because of their sexual orientation. Last month, she indicated that she would issue a worldwide injunction, but gave the government the opportunity to argue against it.
Justice Department lawyers had asked Phillips not to issue a global injunction affecting all troops, arguing that such a sudden change would be disruptive to military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.
But Phillips agreed with attorneys for the Log Cabin Republicans, who said that the ban doesn't help the military in wartime, but rather hurts it by limiting recruiting and requiring the immediate discharge of gay and lesbian service members, even those with critical skills.
Although the House voted for repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," Senate Republicans blocked a vote on the measure last month, even though both Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that gays should be allowed to serve openly.
With the midterm elections now three weeks away, and with gay rights issues already a hot topic on campaign trails all across the country, the White House and Justice Department did not immediately signal whether the government will appeal the ban on the policy. Federal officials have 60 days to appeal the ruling.