A federal judge in California has ruled
the military's ban on gay troops serving openly to be
U.S. District Judge Virginia A.
Phillips ruled the Pentagon's “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” policy
violated the First Amendment rights of gay troops. She said the
policy has a “direct and deleterious effect” on the armed
President Barack Obama says he supports
repeal of the Clinton-era law, but administration lawyers defended
the policy at the two-week trial. Lawyers argued the policy was
necessary for military readiness, but stuck to its legislative
“It again must be noted that
Defendants called no witnesses, put on no affirmative case, and only
entered into evidence the legislative history of the Act,” Phillips
wrote in her 85-page ruling.
Gay GOP group Log Cabin Republicans
challenged the policy.
In his opening remarks, plaintiffs'
lead lawyer Dan Woods said the military excludes gay troops from
service “solely on the basis of status and conduct that is
“No matter how I look at this issue,”
Woods said, “I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we
have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about
who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens.”
Congress is currently debating whether
to repeal the 1993 law. House members voted for repeal in May, and
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised a vote in the Senate
this month. Republicans, led by Arizona Senator John McCain, have
promised to filibuster the bill. Advocates of repeal say they expect
opponents to offer last-minute amendments striking out the repeal
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network
(SLDN), the largest group lobbying for repeal, said it was pleased
with the ruling but insisted Congress needs to repeal the law.
“We're pleased by the judge's
decision, but this decision is likely to be appealed and will linger
for years,” Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the group, said.
“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.”
Among the service members who testified
at the trial was Joseph Rocha, who
was discharged from the Navy in 2007 after he violated the policy.
He came out to his commanding officer after suffering two years of
abuse from shipmates while on duty on the island of Bahrain between
2004 and 2006.
Taunting and bullying at the hands of
his chief master-at-arms Michael Toussaint began soon after Rocha
declined to take a female prostitute in 2004. Rocha said he did not
report the abuse because he was afraid of losing his job.
“I'm confident that, at least
personally, had 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' not been the policy, I would
have felt confident to report the abuse when it escalated, and not
fear reprisal,” Rocha testified.