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Victories for the Gay Community

September 25, 2010

During his presidential campaign, President Obama promised to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.  That promise has not yet been delivered upon.  Nevertheless, there seems to be a shift in the tide, albeit a small one,  regarding the 1993 federal policy that prevents homosexuals from serving openly in the military.

Earlier this month, California U. S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips struck down DADT as an unconstitutional infringement on the free speech and due process rights of gays and lesbians in the military.  When the judge said she was considering issuing an injunction to stop the policy from being enforced, the Obama administration stepped in, asking her not to issue the injunction in the hopes that Congress would soon resolve the issue.

Congress did have the opportunity to repeal the policy earlier this week.  But the U. S. Senate blocked the legislation that would have repealed DADT.

Nevertheless, the tide continues in favor of the gay community.  Just yesterday, a federal court in Tacoma, Washington reinstated a U. S. Air Force flight nurse who was discharged from the military in 2007 after revealing that she is a lesbian.  Following a two-week bench trial in which witnesses testified as to the Major’s outstanding performance in the military, U. S. District Court Judge Ronald Leighton ruled that DADT violated the Major’s equal protection and due process rights and ordered that she be reinstated as soon as possible.  If the nurse, Major Margaret Witt, returns to service, she will be the first person to lawfully serve openly in the U. S. military as a homosexual.

Another victory for the gay community came this week from the state of Florida.  At issue was the state law explicitly barring adoption by gays and lesbians.  On Wednesday, Florida’s Third District Court of Appeals  affirmed the lower circuit court’s decision, allowing the adoption of two children by their foster parent, who is gay, and striking down the state law on the basis of equal protection of law.  The main rationale behind the ruling was the fact that Florida allows gays and lesbians to serve as foster parents while expressly banning adoptions by homosexuals.  Soon after the ruling was announced, Florida Governor Charlie Crist ordered that the state would stop enforcing the ban.  It remains to be seen whether the state’s Department of Children and Families will appeal the decision, although it is likely that the matter will go to Florida’s Supreme Court.

Some may argue that these recent victories for the gay community are the result of activist judges, but the argument also exists that perhaps the rulings are indicative of a change sweeping through our society and our growing tolerance towards gays and homosexuality.  While we wait to see how the Obama administration deals with the DADT policy, it may, in fact, be the judiciary that is the force behind any change.

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