(Photo: AP Images / Jon Elswick)
Conservatives are calling on the Obama administration to appeal a federal judge's decision that the military must halt the enforcement of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips issued a permanent injunction, ordering the government "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' Act."
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins accused the judge of "playing politics with our national defense" and of using the military to advance a liberal social agenda.
He noted that the judge also disregarded the views of military service chiefs who have advised against repealing the Clinton-era policy that bars gays from serving openly in the military. Lifting the ban could disrupt unit cohesion during ongoing combat operations and affect morale, they have contended.
Last month, Phillips had struck down the policy, concluding that it infringes the fundamental rights of U.S. servicemembers and violates the First and Fifth Amendments.
She rejected arguments that repealing the policy would create a military readiness or cohesion problem and said it has actually harmed recruitment efforts.
"At the same time that the Act has caused the discharge of over 13,000 members of the military, including hundreds in critical occupations, the shortage of troops has caused the military to permit enlistment of those who earlier would have been denied entry because of their criminal records, their lack of education, or their lack of physical fitness," she wrote in her September ruling.
Though U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and President Barack Obama back a repeal, they have treaded cautiously, asking for patience until the Pentagon finishes its review of the effects of lifting the ban. The review is due on Dec. 1.
Last month, the Senate voted against the policy's repeal. Democrats have vowed to try to pass the legislation later this year, following the fall elections.
Rep. Howard P McKeon (R-Calif.), the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, called on the Obama administration to file a motion to stay the injunction.
"We are a nation at war," he said. "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."
The Family Research Council also called on the Department of Justice to defend the policy through the appeals process.
The government has 60 days to file an appeal.
A Pew Research Center poll, released last week, found that 60 percent of Americans favor allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military while only 30 percent oppose it. Among evangelicals, 43 percent favor homosexuals serving openly and 47 percent are opposed.
The lawsuit against "don't ask, don't tell" was brought by Log Cabin Republicans, a national gay and lesbian Republican grassroots organization, in October 2004. The group contended that the policy violates the constitutional rights of its members and sought a permanent injunction. The case went to trial in July 2010.