DADT, At Ease!

On October 12, Federal District Court Judge Virginia A. Phillips ordered the military to “immediately suspend and discontinue any investigation, discharge, separation, or other proceeding” that may have been commenced under the United States Military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy.

Barring a stay by a higher court, the injunction would put a stop to discharges that began when the policy was first enacted in 1993.

Referring to the breadth of the decision, Alex Nicholson, the named plaintiff in the lawsuit brought by the Log Cabin Republicans on his behalf, said, “We sort of won the lottery.” Nicholson is the executive director of Servicemembers United, an organization of gay and lesbian veterans.

Phillips, in a detailed opinion announced on September 9, had ruled that DADT violates the First and Fifth Amendments of the Bill of Rights. At that time, she ordered the Log Cabin Republicans to submit a proposed judgment, including “a permanent injunction barring its enforcement,” to the court on or before September 16. The government was then given seven days to submit any objections.

Anticipating that Tuesday’s ruling might be appealed by Attorney General Eric Holder’s Justice Department, US Senators Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Mark Udall of Colorado initiated a letter sent to Holder, signed by 19 other senators, urging him to allow Phillips’ injunction to stand. The two senators had earlier sent out an e-mail calling DADT an “outmoded law that hurts our military readiness” and asking supporters of open service in the military to sign a petition against a possible appeal.

In a press release, Human Right Campaign president Joe Solmonese said, “The administration should comply with [Phillip’s] order and stop enforcing this unconstitutional, unconscionable law that forces brave lesbian and gay Americans to serve in silence.”

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, in a written release, said the ruling “will likely be appealed,” but pledged that his group would carefully monitor existing discharge actions as long as the injunction remains in place.

The Justice Department has 60 days in which to file an appeal of Phillips’ injunction.