Los Angeles: A federal judge in California struck down the US military`s ban on gays openly serving in the military, saying the policy is unconstitutional and violates free speech rights.
Judge Virginia Phillips said evidence presented by members of the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay conservative organisation, clearly showed the controversial policy discriminates against homosexuals.
"The Don`t Ask Don`t Tell Act, on its face, violates the constitutional rights" of homosexual troops, she wrote.
"Plaintiff is entitled to... a judicial declaration to that effect and a permanent injunction barring further enforcement of the Act," she wrote.
The injunction, which would suspend enforcement of the controversial policy, will not go into effect immediately.
The ruling gives the Log Cabin Republicans until September 10 to submit a proposed injunction and the government a week after that date to submit its objections. The government can also appeal the decision.
The case places President Barack Obama`s administration in the difficult position of trying to defend a policy it is committed to repealing.
Obama has spoken out against the Act, but has pledged to repeal it in coordination with the military and Congress, and only after the completion of a study on how its repeal would affect military readiness and unit cohesion.
But Phillips rejected the suggestion that the repeal would hurt the US military, arguing instead that the policy itself was harmful.
"Far from furthering the military`s readiness, the discharge of these service men and women had a direct and deleterious effect on this governmental interest," she wrote.
She cited the discharge of troops with critical language skills and the decline in morale of troops who saw qualified gay and lesbian colleagues booted out of the military because of their sexual orientation.
She also noted that troops suspected of being gay were allowed to serve out their deployments in theatre and investigations and discharges did not occur until their return, demonstrating "that the policy is not necessary."