Judge Rules “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Policy Unconstitutional

On Behalf of | Oct 15, 2010 | Employee Rights

Our previous post talked about National Coming Out Day and how a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender employee might decide to come out at work, and how if the workplace is a safe and supportive place to be openly gay with policies against sexual orientation discrimination, being out could actually improve a GLBT worker’s professional life. In the news this week, is the question and controversy over whether military service members should be able to come out of the closet in their workplace.

The 1993 “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy enacted by President Clinton was overturned on Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips of Riverside. The law says that military commanders cannot ask about service members’ sexual orientation, but if service members voluntarily tell them that they are anything other than heterosexual, their military service can be terminated.


Judge Phillips ruled that the law is an unconstitutional violation of due process and 1st Amendment rights. On Thursday, the Justice Department asked the judge to set aside her ruling until the military can appeal the decision. Military officials say that the ruling will cause a change too precipitous for the military to handle and could end up harming service members and compromising military operations and national security.

The Justice Department said that if Judge Phillips did not lift her order by Monday, it would ask the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to stop the order. If the 9th Circuit refuses to halt the order, they will likely ask the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the ruling.

Military officials say they need more time to effectively craft policy and train commanders to prevent discrimination against GLBT service members. President Obama has indicated that he wants the policy to be ended during his presidency, but he would prefer Congress to repeal the law in a more orderly way.


Justice Department says ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ ruling will harm troops (Los Angeles Times)


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