The U.S. military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell policy” is unconstitutional, according to a ruling handed down Thursday by a federal judge.
The policy bans openly gay Americans from serving in the military. But U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips said she will issue an order to stop the policy from being enforced.
The battle for gays to serve openly isn’t over. But the policy could be on the brink of being overturned.
“I think it should be repealed,” said Bruce Ayers, an openly gay American who said his sexuality prevented him serving in the military.
“This is America,” said Krysta Bell, a Palm Springs resident. “You should be able to do what you want.”
“If you can join the military, and you can stand side by side,” said Lance Vickers, who supports lifting the ban. “Die together, fight together, you know, what’s the problem?”
In 2004, the Log Cabin Republicans filed a lawsuit seeking a ban to stop “don’t ask, don’t tell” from being enforced.
According to the group, more than 13,500 servicemen and women have been fired since 1994 because they were openly gay.
“I served eight years in the military,” said Daniel Stewart. “I’m a gay man and I was in the closet when I served. So, I know how difficult that is to try to be a great citizen for your own country and serve in the military only to have to hide it.”
Stewart is visiting Palm Springs.
He is currently the commissioner of the New York State Commission of Corrections.
“I was the first openly gay elected mayor in New York state’s history, and that took place in 1998,” he said. “So, we have a long way to go no matter what state we’re from.”
“Don’t ask, don’t tell” was signed into law in 1993.
Judge Phillips ruling will not change the policy immediately.
Her decision calls for an injunction on the law by Sept. 16. But defendants can fight it, and appeals will most likely follow.
Stewart supports this first step.
“I’m very happy about the decision by the judge but there are other steps that have to be taken to make this a complete turnover,” said Stewart.
“I know it could create some type of barrier when people come out,” said Bell. “It can create problems in the field (in) Iraq and Afghanistan.”
But Bell said men and women should be able to serve regardless of their sexuality.
Lance Vickers from the United Kingdom agrees.
“Somebody doesn’t say, ‘Well, I think I’ll be gay,'” he said. “They can’t do anything about it you know. So, why be abused for it? Why be set aside for it?”
President Barack Obama said he wants to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
In May, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation calling for it’s repeal pending a study conducted by the Pentagon.