Obama team faces tough politics on gay rights legal issue

By JOSH GERSTEIN, Politico

A federal judge has ordered a worldwide halt to enforcement of the Defense Department’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding gays in the military.

U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips issued the injunction Tuesday after finding last month that the policy – made law by Congress in 1993 – violates the Constitutional rights of service members. She acted on a lawsuit brought by the Log Cabin Republicans, a political organization of gay conservatives.

The Justice Department had urged Phillips, who sits in Riverside, Calif., to limit any relief to members of the Log Cabin group or to the named plaintiffs. Her order, however, applies to all U.S. military operations around the globe.

The White House had no immediate reaction to the order, which took effect when it was issued. The Defense Department had no immediate word on how it will comply with the judge’s order.

“We have just learned of this ruling. We are now studying it and we will be in consultation with the Department of Justice,” Pentagon spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said.

If the Justice Department continues its present policy of defending the “don’t ask” statute despite President Barack Obama’s call for its repeal, an appeal is likely – a move that would likely anger gay rights activists who have pressed for an end to the policy. A confrontation with a strongly Democratic constituency a few weeks before crucial midterm elections cannot be welcome news for the White House.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs would not comment specifically on the injunction Tuesday, but said Obama is committed to dismantling the DADT policy. “The president will continue to work as hard as he can to change the law that he believes is fundamentally unfair,” Gibbs said.

At the same time, advocates cheered the judge’s action – and her decision to reject the government’s call for a more limited order.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1010/43488.html#ixzz12EufeUEJ

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