Judge Virginia Phillips confirmed today her denial of a request by the federal government to delay enforcement of her October 12th injunction—which halted “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”—until it is appealed. With her decision comes the ability for openly gay men and women to apply for service in the military for the first time in 17 years.
Phillips’ denial was expected after she noted yesterday that she was unlikely to hold off on carrying out her decision. “My tentative ruling is to deny the application for a stay,” she said at a hearing. Christian Berle, deputy executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, praised the decision, saying “No longer will our military be compelled to discharge servicemembers with valuable skills and experience because of an archaic policy mandating irrational discrimination.”
Phillips is a federal judge for the U.S. District Court in the Central District of California. Last month, she struck down “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” on the basis that it discriminated against the rights of gay and lesbian members of the military, and in fact had a “direct and deleterious effect on this governmental interest,” rather than upholding unit cohesion as some of its supporters have suggested. It is “far from furthering the military’s readiness,” Phillips wrote when she issued the 86-page ruling on September 9. She also said then that she would pass an injunction barring enforcement of the policy. Last Tuesday, she imposed a ban ordering federal officials to stop enforcement of the policy.
LGBT advocates have criticized President Obama for being slow to address this policy after he pledged to eliminate it during his 2008 campaign and after taking office. He has responded by reiterating that the change needs to occur through Congress rather than the courts in order to be implemented effectively, but many refute this, saying that it is not necessary.
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“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was passed under President Bill Clinton in 1993, and does not permit gay or members of the military who are out about their sexual orientation or who engage in romantic encounters with members of the same sex to serve. Tens of thousands of men and women have been discharged since it passed, including service people with fluency in Arabic, with critical jobs in counterterrorism and intelligence, and with other highly valued skills. The Justice Department has until Monday, December 13, to appeal the court decision.
GLAAD applauds Justice Phillips for her leadership helping end such a discriminatory policy, and will continue to monitor news coverage.