Don’t Ask Don’t Tell ruled unconstitutional

So how about those Log Cabin Republicans, eh? Yesterday, if I had used that phrase, you would have thought I was talking about a building blocks set for the Conservative kiddies, and you would have vowed to stick with your nonpartisan Legos because Republicans hate gays. Right? Well, surprise! It turns out the Log Cabin Republicans have quietly managed to do something President Obama has been promising to do since his first State of the Union speech: They made actual progress in overturning the military’s "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy.

Last night, Federal judge Virginia Phillips of California handed down an 85-page opinion saying the "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy "violates both the First Amendment and due process rights of gay servicemembers."

When the news broke, Gay Twitter blew up and AutoStraddle asked what we were all thinking: "Did you know that the Log Cabin Republicans were taking DADT to court? Because, uh, we didn’t."

We didn’t either. It wasn’t on our radar. But they’ve been working on the case since the Bush Administration back in 2004.

So a federal judge says DADT is unconstitutional. Yay! But, um, what does that really mean?

For starters, it means President Obama has a chance to support a gay community that is growing increasingly impatient with his lack of action on their behalf. He has made no progress on his pledges to overturn DADT and the Defense of Marriage Act, and in fact defended DOMA in court last summer.

The Department of Justice, which was defending the government in the case, has until September 23 to submit an objection. If the DOJ doesn’t appeal, DADT might simply go away. In fact, it might be Obama’s best chance to actually fulfill his promise to overturn the military’s ban on gay service members. With midterm elections on the way, the House is sure to be ineffectual in the coming term. And after the elections, there’s a very real chance the Democrats will lose their majority. Many Republican Congress members oppose DADT, but there’s no guarantee that DADT would ever even see a vote in a Republican-led House.

In all likelihood, however, Obama will instruct the DOJ to object to Judge Phillips’ ruling, just as he instructed them to staunchly defend DADT during the trial. The President has made it quite clear that he wants Congress to overturn the policy, and with all the populist rhetoric about unelected activist judges controlling the fate of the country, it’s hard to blame him. The Constitution is pretty clear that the executive and legislative branches of the government are in charge of military policy.

If the DOJ does object, Phillips’ decision will most certainly be stayed with appeals.

But even if last night’s ruling doesn’t turn out to be a long-term legal victory for the gay community, it is most certainly a moral victory — especially coming as it does on the heels of the Prop. 8 victory. See what’s happening here? I’m talking about equality and I just used the word "victory" three times in one paragraph.

After the decision, Servicemembers United executive director Alex Nicholson said in a statement, "As the only named injured party in this case, I am exceedingly proud to have been able to represent all who have been impacted and had their lives ruined by this blatantly unconstitutional policy. We are finally on our way to vindication."

We hope he’s right.

Here’s Rachel Maddow on DADT as the news broke last night.

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