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Repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' makes ruling moot, judges say

Dont ask dont tell repeal

A judge's ruling that the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy was unconstitutional was struck down Thursday by a federal appeals court panel, saying the recently completed repeal of the anti-gay statute made the case moot.

Lawyers for the Log Cabin Republicans and other gay rights groups that challenged the 1993 statute had argued that the unconstitutional label was still necessary to get compensation or reinstatement for some of the 13,000 service members discharged over the last 18 years for being gay.

The unanimous ruling of a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the gay rights advocates who brought suit against the military for discrimination against gays and lesbians had accomplished their goal when the multistage repeal of the statute was completed Sept. 20.

The panel vacated the ruling last year by U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" violated the right of due process for gay service members.

The appeals panel, writing in unison to underscore its singular view, sent Phillips' ruling back to her Riverside courtroom with instructions to dismiss the case.

The most senior member of the panel and one of the court's most conservative judges, Diarmuid F. O'Scannlain, added in a special concurring opinion that he would have been inclined to reverse Phillips' ruling even if the issue hadn't been rendered moot by the repeal.

Dan Woods, the attorney who argued in a Sept. 1 hearing that the unconstitutional label was necessary despite repeal, warned the court that declaring the matter moot would force victims of the policy to spend years and vast sums of money proving anew that the policy violated their constitutional rights.

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-- Carol J. Williams 

Photo: Johnny Pujols and West Hollywood residents march in a rally celebrating the end of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" on Sept. 20. Credit:  Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

 
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