The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy excludes open homosexuals from serving in the U.S. military “solely on the basis of status and conduct that is constitutionally protected,” a lawyer for a gay Republican group argued as trial opened Tuesday in a case that seeks to bar enforcement of the law.

The bench trial opened before U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips in Riverside, Calif., as debate continued in Washington over legislation to repeal the ban.

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