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Judge in California rules on military's ban on openly gay service members

The California case was brought by the Log Cabin Republicans, a 19,000-member group that includes current and former military members.

"As an American, a veteran and an Army Reserve officer, I am proud the court ruled that the arcane Don't Ask Don't Tell statute violates the Constitution," said Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper.

Dan Woods, lead attorney for the case, added, "This is a major victory in the fight for equality and means that military service will be available to all Americans, regardless of their sexual orientation."

There was no immediate reaction from the Justice Department. During the trial, attorney Paul G. Freeborne had challenged the standing of the Log Cabin Republicans to contest the act. He also argued that the policy is a political decision to be made by Congress and not judges.

Phillips criticized the government's defense in her ruling, writing, "It again must be noted that Defendants called no witnesses, put on no affirmative case, and only entered into evidence the legislative history of the Act."

On the other side, she said, the military was hurt by discharging servicemembers who had performed well in combat and other situations, and it had forced gays in the ranks to hide their true identities, denied their ability to have personal relationships and kept them from expressing themselves even in private communications.

"In order to justify the encroachment on these rights, defendants faced the burden at trial of showing the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Act was necessary to significantly further the government's important interests in military readiness and unit cohesion," Phillips wrote. "Defendants failed to meet that burden."

Staff writer Craig Whitlock contributed to this report.

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