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Court Declares "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Unconstitutional

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It’s an irony the latest — and one of the biggest blows — to the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy came late Thursday in a case brought by a Republican group. The Log Cabin Republicans describe themselves as “the nation’s only organization of Republicans who support fairness, freedom, and equality for gay and lesbian Americans.” Even though DADT was crafted by Democratic President Bill Clinton — and support for it doesn’t break down neatly along partisan lines — the GOP has been seen as more opposed to lifting the ban.

But the decision by federal district court Judge Virginia Phillips concurs with the GOP gay group, saying DADT is unconstitutional because it violates the rights of gays and lesbians under the First and Fifth amendments. Instead of cutting the government slack because the nation is at war, Phillips seemed to go out of her war to cite the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as part of the reasoning behind her decision. She noted that many service personnel — several hundred annually — have been booted from the military during wartime.

“Among those discharged were many with critically needed skills,” she noted in her 85-page opinion. “According to the Government’s own data, many of those discharged pursuant to the Act had education, training, or specialization in so-called `critical skills,’ including Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, or Korean language fluency; military intelligence; counterterrorism; weapons development; and medicine…Far from furthering the military’s readiness, the discharge of these service men and women had a direct and deleterious effect on this governmental interest.”

The Log Cabin Republicans sued the government in 2004 to halt the ban. Over the next two weeks, Phillips is expected to draft an injunction lifting the ban. How the Administration and Congress — which imposed DADT as a law in 1994 — will respond isn’t yet known.

The case has been viewed as a major test of the policy, which President Obama has pledged to try to get Congress to repeal. Instead of being brought by a single individual, the Log Cabin Republicans sued as a group, seeking to strike down the entire policy on behalf of all gay and lesbian military — and would-be military — personnel.

“As an American, a veteran and an Army reserve officer, I am proud the court ruled that the arcane `Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ statute violates the Constitution,” said Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper. “Today, the ruling is not just a win for Log Cabin Republican service members, but all American service members.”

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