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Judge orders military to stop enforcing 'don't ask, don't tell'

By Adam Levine, CNN
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Judge: Stop enforcing 'don't ask'
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Congressman calls on White House to file motion seeking a stay
  • The Defense and Justice departments are studying the ruling
  • Log Cabin Republicans hail the federal judge's ruling but advise caution
  • The judge had previously ruled that the policy violated service members' rights

(CNN) -- A federal judge on Tuesday ordered the U.S. military to stop enforcing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, putting an end to the ban on openly gay troops.

U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips' permanent worldwide injunction -- praised by gay rights organizations -- orders the military "immediately to suspend and discontinue any investigation, or discharge, separation, or other proceeding, that may have been commenced" under the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

The judge, a Clinton appointee based in the Central District of California, previously ruled that the policy regarding gays serving in the military violated service members' Fifth Amendment rights to due process and freedom of speech, but had delayed issuing the injunction.

The military was sued by Log Cabin Republicans, a gay rights group.

Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler would say only that the department is "reviewing the ruling." The department has 60 days to appeal, but is not required to do so.

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The Defense Department is reviewing the ruling to determine whether it has immediate impact and is consulting with the Justice Department, Pentagon spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said.

Air Force lawyers in a recent case argued the military -- not the courts -- is in the best position to evaluate and enforce the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

President Barack Obama is pushing for a repeal of the controversial policy. A bill currently before Congress would overturn the measure after a Pentagon review is completed in December.

In her ruling Tuesday, Phillips stated the policy infringes on the rights of military personnel. "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," the judge wrote.

More than 12,500 people have been booted from the military since "don't ask, don't tell" went into effect. Along with barring known gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals from serving, the policy prevents the military from asking them about it.

Log Cabin Republicans praised the ruling but urged "caution by servicemembers considering coming out at this time, as the Obama administration still has the option to appeal."

The group said the ruling is a victory for strong national defense.

"No longer will our military be compelled to discharge servicemembers with valuable skills and experience because of an archaic policy mandating irrational discrimination," it said in a statement following the ruling.

Servicemembers United, which describes itself as the nation's largest organization of gay and lesbian troops and veterans, also hailed the judge's ruling but urged gays who serve to be careful about coming out now.

"This order from Judge Phillips is another historic and courageous step in the right direction, a step that Congress has been noticeably slow in taking," said executive director Alexander Nicholson.

The ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee called on the administration to immediately file a motion to stay the injunction so Congress can address the issue.

"We are a nation at war. This decision could have a negative impact on military and family readiness since the Department of Defense is unprepared to address the issues that are bound to arise from such a hasty change, Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon, R-California, said in a statement.

Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, a research institute of the University of California-Santa Barbara, said he expects the Obama administration to appeal Tuesday's order.

"The case could be done next week if the administration decides not to appeal, or it could take five years if there is an appeal, or Congress could move faster than the Justice Department, which would render this case moot," said Belkin, whose institute researches sexual minorities in the military and advocates an end to the ban.

CNN's Carol Cratty and Jennifer Rizzo contributed to this report.

 
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