DADT Ruled Unconstitutional – A Quick Synopsis

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Hey everybody! If you didn’t hear the good news last night, a district judge in Riverside, CA ruled that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is unconstitutional. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time today to do my typical weighty analysis of the 85-page decision. Instead, let me give it to you in the most abridged format, with links to further analysis.

The case, Log Cabin Republicans v. United States was decided by Judge Virginia A. Phillips. She ruled that DADT violated the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment as well as servicemembers’ First Amendment rights. The law does not further government interests, nor does it support military readiness or unit cohesion (in fact, it undermines those interests). One of the most damning pieces of evidence was the fact that discharges were often delayed for servicemembers deployed in combat zones until they returned.

Let me say that again: the court found that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell hurts military readiness and cohesion.

In regards to the First Amendment, DADT discriminates on the basis of content of speech. It doesn’t prohibit troops from discussing sexuality or sexual orientation, but unfairly targets servicemembers who are not heterosexual.

This was a facial challenge, which is quite different from an as-applied challenge. Rather than addressing the constitutionality for specific individuals, it challenges the constitutionality for everybody. This means that the effect of the opinion (or its appeal) would apply to the entire country, not just the 9th Circuit (unlike the Prop 8 ruling).

Judge Phillips has not yet entered the judgment. She gave a week to LCR to submit their own proposed judgment (September 16), and then the government has a week to object.

At that time, she could put the judgment into immediate effect, stay it indefinitely until an appeal is heard, or stay it temporarily until the Circuit Court of Appeals has time to offer their own stay (as Judge Walker did in Perry v. Schwarzenegger). President Obama’s Department of Justice is now stuck with the decision of whether to continue defending two different LGBT-related decisions, the DOMA cases in Massachusetts and now this DADT decision.

The interesting discussion at this point is how this decision will affect the Senate, who have not yet voted on the weak DADT compromise. Judge Phillips offered her own perspective that the compromise is so weak that the likelihood it would lead to repeal is “remote, if not wholly speculative.” Whatever the repeal compromise does, it does not end the discharges.

For more in-depth analysis of the decision, I recommend Igor Volsky at Think Progress’s Wonk Room, Chris Geidner at Metro Weekly, and Keen News Service.

The Prop 8 Trial Tracker is collecting responses from news sources like Rachel Maddow and CNN, as well as various organization representatives.

Jarrod Chlapowski of Servicemembers United has tips for next steps.

Here’s the full decision:DADT — US District, virginia phillips

Have a great weekend, everybody! Enjoy this wonderful news for our community!

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