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US judge halts ban on gay soldiers

A US judge has moved to end the military's 17-year-old ban on openly gay troops.

US District Judge Virginia Phillips issued a worldwide injunction stopping enforcement of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

The landmark ruling was widely cheered by gay rights organisations that credited her with accomplishing what President Obama and Washington politicians could not.

"This order from Judge Phillips is another historic and courageous step in the right direction, a step that Congress has been noticeably slow in taking," said Alexander Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United and the sole named veteran plaintiff in the case along with the Log Cabin Republicans.

Servicemembers United is the nation's largest organisation of gay and lesbian troops and veterans.

US Department of Justice lawyers have 60 days to appeal. Legal experts say the department is under no legal obligation to do so and could let Phillips' ruling stand.

Phillips declared the law unconstitutional after a two-week non-jury trial in federal court in San Diego.

She said the Log Cabin Republicans "established at trial that the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Act irreparably injures servicemembers by infringing their fundamental rights."


From Belfast Telegraph