U.S. Department of Justice attorneys have 60 days to appeal. Legal experts say the department is under no legal obligation to do so and could let Phillips' ruling stand.
[U.S. District Judge Virginia] Phillips declared the law unconstitutional after a two-week nonjury trial in federal court in Riverside. She said the Log Cabin Republicans "established at trial that the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Act irreparably injures servicemembers by infringing their fundamental rights."
She said the policy violates due process rights, freedom of speech and the right to petition the government for redress of grievances guaranteed by the First Amendment.
"Furthermore, there is no adequate remedy at law to prevent the continued violation of servicemembers' rights or to compensate them for violation of their rights," Phillips said. . . .
"The order represents a complete and total victory for the Log Cabin Republicans and reaffirms the constitutional rights of gays and lesbians in the military who are fighting and dying for our country," said Dan Woods, an attorney for the Log Cabin group.
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. . . .
Phillips [said] the law doesn't help military readiness and instead has a "direct and deleterious effect" on the armed services by hurting recruiting during wartime and requiring the discharge of service members with critical skills and training.
Legal experts say the Obama administration could choose to not appeal her ruling to end the ban — but Department of Justice attorneys are not likely to stay mum since Obama has made it clear he wants Congress to repeal the policy. . . .
The "don't ask, don't tell" policy prohibits the military from asking about the sexual orientation of service members but bans those who are openly gay. Under the 1993 policy, service men and women who acknowledge being gay or are discovered engaging in homosexual activity, even in the privacy of their own homes off base, are subject to discharge.
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