ACLU Urges Feds Not to Appeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Ruling

The American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder yesterday urging him not to appeal a federal court order to cease enforcement of the military’s discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Yesterday, the Department of Justice had asked a federal court to block the order issued on Tuesday by a federal judge.

“We are very disappointed that the administration has sought to block the order halting the enforcement of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ As discouraging as the government’s action may be, a request for a stay is not an appeal, and there is still time for the administration to review its position and decide against appealing the court order,” said James Esseks, Director of the ACLU Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project. “The judge correctly recognized that this unconstitutional and discriminatory program harms those who serve our country. The administration has more than discharged any duty it has to defend the statute, and should not seek an appeal. This counterproductive and baseless policy must be brought to an end.”

Judge Virginia Phillips of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California issued the worldwide injunction on Tuesday as a result of a successful challenge to the policy by the Log Cabin Republicans. In a letter sent earlier today, the ACLU asked the attorney general to allow the judge’s order to stand.

“[T]he Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has agreed that allowing openly gay people to serve is ‘the right thing to do,'” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero in the letter. “So here, the military judgment acknowledged and accepted by the District Court is that the policy impedes military effectiveness. That judgment by the military itself makes the unconstitutionality of the law plain, and counsels against any appeal.”

The letter also notes that the government had an opportunity to defend the policy in court, but could offer nothing in the way of a credible, factual defense.

This all comes on the heels of an important and timely legal victory by our sister affiliate, the ACLU of Washington, which challenged the dismissal of an Air Force major who was discharged under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy because she is a lesbian. Just three weeks ago, a U.S. federal court ruled in favor of the decorated flight nurse, finding that her sexual orientation does not negatively impact unit morale or cohesion.

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ACLU Letter to Attorney General Holder