California judge says don't ask don't tell is unconstitutional
RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KFSN) -- Gay rights activist Scotty Maldonado of Equality California says the ruling against "Don't Ask Don't Tell "is an important victory. "I think this ruling really shows us that we've taken one huge step in the direction of equality."
Federal Judge Virginia Phillips, of California's Central District, ruled Don't Ask Don't Tell violated the First Amendment's right to freedom of speech for gay and lesbian military personnel. She also ruled it violated their Fifth Amendment's right to due process of law.
The judge dismissed the military's claim that the law protects military preparedness and unit cohesion. But Pastor Eli Lowera disagrees. He's an Army Veteran who says he served with gay soldiers and believes an openly gay person in the military is not welcome to be themselves. "In the United States Military there's no such freedom. It's not the most liberal, open thinking organization."
Lowera, who's a minister in an Assembly of God Church in Fresno, believes gay military personnel can be victimized by their own comrades. "The weaker link or the one that is perceived to be weaker will not just be hazed but at a certain point ostracized." He said.
But Maldonado believes things have changed. "I do believe public opinion has shifted in such a way that gay and lesbian people in our country, even in the military are more accepted than they were ten or 15 years ago.
Pastor Lowera says things haven't changed that much. "There is a little more tolerance for racial and religious but one thing has not changed is this point of view, where they don't want you in their unit."
The government is expected to seek an injunction of the judge's ruling. But the Pentagon, Congress and the White House have already indicated the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy is likely to be repealed because it is now widely perceived to be unfair.
gay rights, national/world, gene haagenson
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