Yesterday, in a suit brought by the Log Cabin Republicans, federal court judge Virginia Phillips ruled that Don't Ask Don't Tell is unconstitutional, as it violates the First and Fifth Amendments. She issued an injunction, which will no doubt be challenged by the government.
Even so, this case moved us further toward the abolishment of Don't Ask Don't Tell than any steps taken so far by the government or the military. While Phillips, a Clinton appointee, struck down the policy put in place during his presidency, Don't Ask Don't Tell was actually an improvement upon the outright ban that had previously been in effect.
But as Phillips explains in her ruling, Don't Ask Don't Tell restricts speech in a way that is not only discriminatory, but is also detrimental to the military.
"[Don't Ask Don't Tell] discriminates based on the content of the speech being regulated. It distinguishes between speech regarding sexual orientation, and inevitably, family relationships and daily activities, by and about gay and lesbian servicemembers, which is banned, and speech on those subjects by and about heterosexual servicemembers, which is permitted."
Heterosexual servicemembers wear wedding rings, place photos of their families on their desks, mention their spouses in conversation, and bring them to unit sponsored events. Homosexual servicemembers may not do any of these. That's discrimination.
"[Don't Ask Don't Tell's] restrictions on speech not only are broader than reasonably necessary to protect the government's substantial interests, but also actually serve to impede military readiness and unit cohesion rather than further these goals."
I'm personally close to a Don't Ask Don't Tell discharge story that supports Judge Phillips' statement: My friend Mike was outed via a search of his email while he was deployed to Iraq. In the eyes of the military, his sexual orientation trumped all the good he'd done for his unit and for the Air Force. Military and civilian leadership are undermining the strength of our forces by discharging hundreds of troops each year under the policy. Even a single discharge under Don't Ask Don't Tell is one too many.
Grateful thanks to Judge Phillips and congratulations to the Log Cabin Republicans. May this ruling be a concrete step toward the repeal of this hurtful and hateful policy.
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