Log Cabin Republicans v. United States

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Log Cabin Republicans v. United States
Seal of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.svg
Court United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Full case name Log Cabin Republicans, a non-profit corporation v. United States of America and Robert M. Gates, Secretary of Defense, in his official capacity,
Decided September 29 2011
Citation(s) 658 F.3d 1162 (9th Cir. 2011)
Case history
Prior action(s) 716 F. Supp. 2d 884 (C.D. Cal. 2010)
Subsequent action(s) Rehearing en banc denied (Nov. 2011)
The legislative repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell rendered the case moot, and the decision of the lower court finding DADT unconstitutional is vacated.
Court membership
Judge(s) sitting Arthur Lawrence Alarcon, Diarmuid O'Scannlain, Barry G. Silverman
Case opinions
Per curiam.
Concurrence Diarmuid O'Scannlain

Log Cabin Republicans v. United States, 658 F.3d 1162 (9th Cir. 2011)[1] was a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of 10 U.S.C. § 654, commonly known as don't ask, don't tell (DADT), which excludes homosexuals from openly serving in the United States military. The Log Cabin Republicans (LCR), an organization composed of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Republicans, brought the suit on behalf of LCR members who serve or served in the military and were subject to DADT.

LCR initially filed the suit, a facial challenge to the statute, in 2004. A bench trial began on July 13, 2010, before Judge Virginia A. Phillips of the United States District Court for the Central District of California. The Justice Department had unsuccessfully sought to have the suit dismissed, arguing that as long as Congress had a rational basis for passing DADT in 1993, then it is constitutional. The Justice Department also asserted at trial that LCR did not have standing to challenge the law.[2] LCR argued that DADT violates constitutional guarantees of due process and free speech.[3]

Phillips advised the parties pre-trial that she would not apply rational basis review, the lowest level of constitutional scrutiny, to the case. Instead, in accordance with the ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Witt v. Department of the Air Force, she would apply intermediate scrutiny,[4] meaning to be constitutional, DADT must significantly further an important governmental interest that can be advanced in no other way.[5]

On September 9, 2010, Phillips ruled that the ban is unconstitutional. On October 12, Phillips issued an injunction banning the military from enforcing the policy.[6] She subsequently denied the government's request for a stay of the injunction, and the government then took their request to the Ninth Circuit, which granted a stay. On November 12, the United States Supreme Court denied an application by the Log Cabin Republicans to vacate the stay. The Ninth Circuit vacated the stay on July 6, 2011, and ordered an end to enforcement of DADT. On September 29, 2011, the Ninth Circuit issued a per curiam opinion that the legislative repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" had rendered the case moot.[1]


Daniel Woods of the law firm of White & Case was the lead attorney for the plaintiffs. Assistant United States Attorney Paul Freeborne defended DADT on behalf of the United States.[7]


A recording of oral arguments made in the case.

Witnesses for the plaintiffs included:

The government presented no witnesses.

Closing arguments were made on July 23, 2010, with LCR attorney Woods asking for a national injunction against enforcement of DADT.[11][12]


On September 9, 2010, Judge Phillips ruled in favor of plaintiffs, finding that DADT violates the First and Fifth Amendments to the United States Constitution.[13][14][15][16] Noting the deference that courts are required to show the military in reviewing First Amendment claims, Phillips found that the "sweeping reach" of the restrictions placed on the speech of LGBT military personnel by DADT is "far broader than is reasonably necessary to protect the substantial government interest at stake". Phillips also found that DADT violates LGBT personnel's right of association, as it prohibits them from openly joining organizations like LCR for fear of reprisal, thereby depriving them of their ability to petition the government for redress of grievances. Phillips further ruled that DADT violates LGBT personnel's substantive due process rights, as articulated in Lawrence v. Texas, associated with the "'autonomy of self that includes freedom of thought, belief, expression, and certain intimate conduct.'"[17]

On October 12, 2010, Phillips issued a permanent worldwide injunction ordering the military to immediately "suspend and discontinue any investigation, or discharge, separation, or other proceeding, that may have been commenced" under "don't ask, don't tell".[6][18][19] Plaintiffs' attorney Woods said "the order represents a complete and total victory for the Log Cabin Republicans and reaffirms the constitutional rights of gays and lesbians in the military who are fighting and dying for our country."[20]

One of the nation's largest organizations for gay and lesbian military personnel, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, advised gay service members not to come out because of uncertainty about the government's response to the ruling.[21][22] A Pentagon spokesman said the Department would abide by the ruling, and senior military officials told military lawyers to stop enforcing DADT.[23][24]

On October 14, 2010, the Department of Justice appealed from the judgment to the Ninth Circuit. At the same time, the government asked for an emergency stay of the injunction pending the outcome of the appellate process.[23][24] On October 19, Phillips denied the government's request for a stay.[25] On October 20, the government asked the Ninth Circuit for a stay,[26] which the Ninth circuit granted.[27] On November 5, the plaintiffs asked the Supreme Court to vacate the 2-1 decision to keep the stay in place. Justice Kennedy, who handles emergency motions from the Ninth Circuit, asked the government to respond by November 10.[28] On November 12, the Supreme Court denied the application to vacate the stay.[29][30]

With the injunction stayed, enforcement of DADT resumed, but under stricter guidelines.[31]

On December 22, 2010, President Barack Obama signed the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010. His signature began the repeal process but repeal was not immediate and DADT remained in effect.[32] The Justice Department asked the Ninth Circuit to suspend LCR's suit in light of the legislative repeal. LCR opposed the request, noting that gay personnel were still subject to discharge. On January 28, 2011, the court denied the Justice Department's request.[33] On February 25, the Department of Justice filed its response, in which it no longer defended the constitutionality of DADT but asked the court to consider how the repeal of DADT has placed the case "in a different posture" from when the judge granted an injunction on October 12, 2010.[34]

On July 6, 2011, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals lifted the stay of Judge Phillips' ruling and ordered the military to cease enforcement of DADT. The Court cited the military's progress in implementing the repeal of DADT and the brief filed on July 1 by the Department of Justice in Golinski v. Office of Personnel Management arguing that classifications based on sexual orientation, as found in DADT, should be subjected to heightened scrutiny.[35] Pentagon officials said that they are "taking immediate steps" to comply.[36][37]

On September 29, 2011, the Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's decision, ruling that the legislative repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" rendered the case moot. The dismissal left the lower court ruling without value as precedent.[38] On November 9, 2011, the Court denied LCR's motion to hear the case en banc, stating that none of the judges voted to rehear it. LCR announced that it would not appeal to the United States Supreme Court.[39]


  1. ^ a b Log Cabin Republicans v. United States, 658 F.3d 1162 (9th Cir. 2011).
  2. ^ a b Garcia, Michelle (July 22, 2010). "Key DADT Repeal Advocate Testifies". The Advocate. Archived from the original on July 24, 2010. Retrieved July 22, 2010. 
  3. ^ Harmon, Andrew; Garcia, Michelle (July 12, 2010). "DADT Trial Begins Today". The Advocate. Retrieved July 16, 2010. 
  4. ^ Egelko, Bob (May 29, 2010). "'Don't ask, don't tell' suit will go forward". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved July 25, 2010. 
  5. ^ Witt v. Department of the Air Force, 527 F.3d 806 (United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit May 21, 2008).
  6. ^ a b Log Cabin Republicans v. United States, 716 F. Supp. 2d 884 (C.D. Cal. 2010).
  7. ^ a b Garcia, Michelle (July 14, 2010). "Homophobia on Trial in DADT Case". The Advocate. Retrieved July 16, 2010. 
  8. ^ a b Harmon, Andrew (July 16, 2010). "A DADT Victim's Day in Court". The Advocate. Archived from the original on July 18, 2010. Retrieved July 16, 2010. 
  9. ^ Advocate.com editors (July 17, 2010). "Ex-Air Force Officer Testifies in DADT Trial". The Advocate. Retrieved July 17, 2010. 
  10. ^ Garcia, Michelle (July 20, 2010). "Nicholson Testifies at DADT Trial". The Advocate. Retrieved July 20, 2010. 
  11. ^ Garcia, Michelle (July 23, 2010). "LCR Lawyers Ask for Halt to DADT". The Advocate. Retrieved July 23, 2010. 
  12. ^ Woods, Daniel (July 23, 2010). "Closing arguments, Log Cabin Republicans v. United States of America" (PDF). Log Cabin Republicans. Retrieved July 24, 2010. [permanent dead link]
  13. ^ Log Cabin Republicans v. United States of America, et al., CV 04-08425-VAP (Ex) (C.D. Cal. 2010).
  14. ^ Schwartz, John (September 9, 2010). "Judge Rules That Military Policy Violates Rights of Gays". The New York Times. Retrieved December 4, 2010. 
  15. ^ "Judge: Military's ban on gays is unconstitutional". Yahoo! News. Associated Press. September 9, 2010. Retrieved September 10, 2010. 
  16. ^ Willon, Phil (September 9, 2010). "Judge declares U.S. military's 'don't ask, don't tell' policy openly banning gay service members unconstitutional". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 10, 2010. 
  17. ^ Log Cabin Republicans v. United States of America (United States District Court for the Central District of California September 9, 2010) (“quoting Lawrence v. Texas 539 U.S. 558 (2003)”). Text
  18. ^ Levine, Adam (October 12, 2010). "Judge orders military to stop enforcing 'don't ask, don't tell'". CNN. Retrieved October 12, 2010. 
  19. ^ Pettersson, Edvard (October 12, 2010). "U.S. Military Barred by Judge From Enforcing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Rule". Bloomberg L.P. Retrieved October 12, 2010. 
  20. ^ "Judge to military: Stop discharging gays under 'don't ask, don't tell'". MSNBC. October 12, 2010. Retrieved October 12, 2010. 
  21. ^ "The Latest on Repealing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'". Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. October 13, 2010. Retrieved October 13, 2010. 
  22. ^ "Pentagon Mulls Stance on 'Don't Ask' Ruling, Says 'Nothing Has Changed'". Politics Daily. October 13, 2010. Retrieved October 13, 2010. 
  23. ^ a b "Justice department seeks stay of judge's 'don't-ask-don't-tell' ruling". CNN. October 14, 2010. Retrieved October 14, 2010. 
  24. ^ a b Serrano, Daniel A. (October 14, 2010). "Justice Department says 'don't ask, don't tell' ruling will harm troops". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 14, 2010. 
  25. ^ Egelko, Bob (October 20, 2010). "'Don't ask' judge refuses to stay ruling". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved October 20, 2010. 
  26. ^ "Gov't Seeks Stay of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Ruling". The New York Times. Associated Press. October 20, 2010. Retrieved October 20, 2010. 
  27. ^ Ninth Circuit Order
  28. ^ "Supreme Court Asked to Review Gay Military Ban". The New York Times. Associated Press. November 5, 2010. Retrieved November 5, 2010. 
  29. ^ Denniston, Lyle (November 12, 2010). "Military gay ban intact". SCOTUS Blog. Retrieved November 12, 2010. 
  30. ^ "Order in pending case Log Cabin Republicans v. United States, et al." (PDF). November 12, 2010. Retrieved November 12, 2010. 
  31. ^ Tiron, Roxana (October 22, 2010). "Gates Issues Stricter Rules for Discharge of Gay Troops". The Hill. Retrieved February 27, 2011. 
  32. ^ Stolberg, Sheryl Gay (December 22, 2010). "With Obama's Signature, 'Don't Ask' Is Repealed". The New York Times. Retrieved December 22, 2010. 
  33. ^ "DADT Case Still Alive". The Advocate. January 30, 2011. Archived from the original on February 2, 2011. 
  34. ^ Geidner, Chris (February 25, 2011). "News Analysis: DOJ Avoids DADT Constitutionality Question, Argues DADT Repeal Act Changed LCR Case". Metro Weekly. Retrieved February 28, 2011. 
  35. ^ "Order, July 6, 2011" (PDF). Metro Weekly. Retrieved July 6, 2011. 
  36. ^ Leff, Lisa. "Court orders immediate halt to gay military ban". Associated Press. Retrieved July 6, 2011. 
  37. ^ Geidner, Chris. "Ninth Circuit Halts DADT Enforcement, Pentagon 'Taking Immediate Steps' To Comply". MetroWeekly. Retrieved July 6, 2011. 
  38. ^ Levine, Dan (September 29, 2011). "U.S. court vacates ruling on gays in military". Reuters. Retrieved October 24, 2011. 
  39. ^ Egelko, Bob (November 10, 2011). "U.S. court ends legal challenge to 'don't ask' law". San Francisco Chronicle. 

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