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Sep 9, 2010 9:48 PM by Alison Haynes

Judge: Military's ban on gays is unconstitutional

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) - A federal judge in Southern California
on Thursday declared the U.S. military's ban on openly gay service
members unconstitutional because it violates the First Amendment
rights of gay and lesbians.
U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips granted a request for an
injunction halting the government's "don't ask, don't tell"
policy for gays in the military.
Phillips said the policy doesn't help military readiness and
instead has a "direct and deleterious effect" on the armed
services.
The lawsuit was the biggest legal test of the law in recent
years and came amid promises by President Barack Obama that he will
work to repeal the policy.
Government lawyers argued Phillips lacked the authority to issue
a nationwide injunction and the issue should be decided by
Congress.
The injunction was sought by the Log Cabin Republicans, a
19,000-member group that includes current and former military
members.
Government lawyers argued that Phillips lacked the authority to
issue a nationwide injunction and Congress should decide the
policy's fate.
The U.S. House voted in May to repeal the policy, and the Senate
is expected to address the issue this summer.
"Don't ask, don't tell" prohibits the military from asking
about the sexual orientation of service members but requires
discharge of those who acknowledge being gay or are discovered
engaging in homosexual activity, even in the privacy of their own
homes off base.
Log Cabin Republicans said more than 13,500 service members have
been fired since 1994.
Attorney Dan Woods, who represents the group, contended in
closing arguments of the nonjury trial that the policy violates gay
military members' rights to free speech, due process and open
association.
He also argued that the policy damages the military by forcing
it to reject talented people as the country struggles to find
recruits in the midst of a war.
U.S. Department of Justice attorney Paul G. Freeborne argued
that the policy debate is political and the issue should be decided
by Congress rather than in court.
Six military officers who were discharged under the policy
testified during the trial. A decorated Air Force officer testified
that he was let go after his peers snooped through his personal
e-mail in Iraq.
Lawyers also submitted remarks by Obama stating "don't ask,
don't tell" weakens national security.

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