A federal judge issued a worldwide injunction Tuesday stopping enforcement of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, ending the U.S. military’s 17-year-old ban on openly gay troops.
U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips’ landmark ruling was widely cheered by gay rights organizations that credited her with getting accomplished what President Obama and Washington politics could not.
U.S. Department of Justice attorneys have 60 days to appeal. Legal experts say they are under no legal obligation to do so and could let Phillips’ ruling stand.
The federal government is reviewing the ruling and has no immediate comment, said Tracy Schmaler, spokesman for the Department of Justice.
Phillips declared the law unconstitutional after a two-week nonjury trial in federal court in Riverside and said she would issue a nationwide injunction. But she asked first for input from Department of Justice attorneys and the Log Cabin Republicans, the gay rights group that filed the lawsuit in 2004 to stop the ban’s enforcement.
The Log Cabin Republicans asked her for an immediate injunction so the policy can no longer be used against any U.S. military personnel anywhere in the world.
“The order represents a complete and total victory for the Log Cabin Republicans and reaffirms the constitutional rights of gays and lesbians in the miltiary for fighting and dying for our country,” said Dan Woods, an attorney for the Log Cabin group.
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Government attorneys objected, saying such an abrupt change might harm military operations in a time of war. They had asked Phillips to limit her ruling to the members of the Log Cabin Republicans, a 19,000-member group that includes current and former military service members.
The Department of Justice attorneys also said Congress should decide the issue – not her court.