Who Is Judge Virginia Phillips?

Almost like clockwork, those opposing marriage equality are already calling federel judge Virginia Phillips, who on Thrusday declared DADT unconstitutional, an activist judge. Not surprisingly, Tony Perkins had this to say about Phillips: "homosexual activists have found a judicial activist that will aid in the advancement of their agenda.”

So who exactly is she? The New York Times enlightens us about the woman who has, until now, maintained a low profile:  

VpVirginia Ettinger Phillips was reared in Orange County, Calif., the fourth of eight children. Her father worked in the burgeoning world of theme parks as a marketing director for Disneyland and then for Universal Studios and Sea World.

Judge Phillips, a widow, lives with two wire-haired fox terriers, Mick and Taffy — she refers to them as “my walking enforcers” who help prepare her for the annual vacation, when she and a group of friends enjoy European walking tours. Members of the group have trekked in Ireland, France, Italy and elsewhere.

Judge Phillips said she loved serving at the level of federal trial court, which provides “the variety of human drama — every day, there’s a new case.” And so, she says, it should not be so surprising that she was surprised by the reception to Thursday’s decision.

“This may sound corny,” she said. “I really try to treat every case as the most important case. Because it is the most important case to the parties involved.”

She doesn't sound anything like an acivist judge, just a good one.



  1. pete says

    I hate to sound preachy, but I encourage any readers to take the time to read her decision AND the recent one by Walker. These are brilliant, fair-minded people who are at the top of their fields and that comes across in their written work. You never hear the other side pointing to any specific legal conclusions in the decision, do you? That’s because judges explain their reasoning and they do it brilliantly. It’s not judicial activism, it’s judicial responsibility. And frankly, between an experienced federal judge and Tony Perkins, who is better to explain our constitutional rights? He is not an expert on constitutional law. Phillips is.

  2. matt says

    I must admit, I haven’t read the ruling yet, so I’m speaking a bit out of turn, but I do partially feel that this is a judge overstepping judicial authority. The military has to operate under somewhat different rules. They are not immune to the law, but they do have special circumstances. The military is a governmental organization, but you don’t have freedom of speech in it, not to the extent that civilians do. It is illegal to discriminate against a disabled person, but it’s pretty much NECESSARY to discriminate against the disabled in terms of recruiting soldiers.

    Now, I think DADT is archaic and wrong and desperately needs to be repealed, but I’m not sure, legally or politically, this is the way to do it.

  3. jexer says

    Hrm… DADT was reprehensible, as was the policy prior to it. But if the military hadn’t adopted DADT… I doubt there would be as much compelling evidence as we have today… for allowing gays to serve openly.

  4. princely54 says


    I see your point of view, but I still can see how the ruling would be appropriate. You are correct in that First Amendment rights are abridged in the military (military people are not allowed to badmouth the president…though you KNOW it happens) and you can see how that serves a purpose. You don’t want people starting an uprising among the troops by recruiting others to topple the Commander-in-Chief.

    But as far as one saying they are gay in the military, there is just NO proof that it affects the ability of the platoon to operate. IF it does, then why would they allow those accused to go off on a tour with the accusation hanging over their head, only to let them go when they return? Much like the defense of the California Prop 8, when the rubber meets the road, there are no LEGAL reasons to abridge that right. And even if its a ‘governmental organization’ they cannot fundamentally operate outside of constitutional law.

    As for the Fifth Amendment, it makes total sense that one’s personal right to not incriminate one’s self would remain intact. There are many stories where people have neither ‘told’ nor have been ‘asked’ and they get a third party accusation that sparks off the investigation. That just undermines the entire principle of the law — they are NOT supposed to be asking if YOU are not supposed to be telling. Thus far, it’s been unequally applied to the government’s favor. I just don’t see how keeping this right intact (as MOST of your rights are in the military) impacts military readiness.

  5. princely54 says

    Matt, see page 81 of the ruling to see the part that supports what I said about the First Amendment subjugation in the military and how this doesn’t affect readiness; the gov hasn’t proven that point in court.

  6. TANK says

    it’s just cut and paste responses from the professional antigay crowd. Their arguments and accusations have been defeated and proven false, respectively, but they just repeat them. It’s how the meme is propagated, apparently.

  7. RJ says

    Are Tony Perkins et al not free to testify on behalf of the anti-gay sides in these court cases?

    Why didn’t Elaine Donnelly, the founder of the so-called Center for Military Readiness, testify in this DADT case?

    I’d like to see them ALL cross-examined under oath.

  8. pete says

    @RJ – Good question – I’m not sure about the testimony circumstances in this case, but your question was answered in the recent Prop 8 case, when one of the lawyers compared the millions spent on voter persuasion, to the absolute dearth of credible witnesses present at trial to support prop 8 and repeat the claims they made on billboards and in the media. He said, “the witness stand is a lonely place to tell a lie.”

  9. justiceontherocks says

    Matt, Matt, Matt,

    We’ve been over this hundreds of times. The military is entitled to judicial deference in the way it conducts its business so long as the questioned policy has a proven relationship to providing national security. They don’t get a “because we said so” free pass. Judge Phillips found no such relationship.

    Judge Phillips is a well-respected jurist and a graduate of UC-Berkeley law school, a top 10 school. She’s not the type to go off half-cocked with no clue what she’s talking about, unlike some commenters on blogs.

  10. mad1026 says

    Is there going to be a vacancy on the SCOTUS for Judge Phillips? She and Judge Walker have proven they are thoughtful and fair jurists, unlike some on the Court(cough-Alito, cough-Scalia).

  11. Daniel says

    A Federal judge has no legal right to rule on matters related to the American military. It is congress’ job to decide the fate of DADT NOT a Federal judge, who can only rule over domestic affairs.

    The people who see DADT as discriminatory fail to realize a couple of things:

    1: DADT was put forth in place by Bill Clinton, hardly what you guys would refer to as a homphobe

    2: DADT was a necessary means of keeping a code of conduct in place that would ensure that gays did not disrupt the flow of military harmony by engaging in activities which would possibly (and likely) put them at odds with the overwhelmingly straight servicemen and Women theyd serve with.

    None of you have stopped to consider just how the straight servicemen and Women feel about this…i have vet friends who have expressed that they would have requested a dishonorable discharge had they been forced to serve with openly gay Men/Women.


    BEcause of the fact that theyd have to then shower and sleep in intimate surrounds with these people…situations where a gay Man or Woman would be checking out a Man or Woman who happened to be straight will now become par for the course, and you are going to see fights and possible acts of homophobia as a result.

    DADT wasnt discriminatory, it was necessary to ensure the cohesion of the military at large.

    Its not perfect, and I dont believe in discharging gays that DONT out themselves, but as far as the rest goes i DO NOT see the benefit of a repeal, it will do far more harm than any actual good.

    None of you respect the feelings of straight Men and Women who would inexorably be put in uncomfortable situations because of a repeal, and it reflects in your narrow minded comments.

  12. Bill says

    Daniel, with all due respect you know nothing about the way gays are attracted to the same sex.

    When you see a model or someone on tv or from across the street you might go wow he/she is hot just like a straight person of the opposite sex would… But when in close quarters with the person we don’t check people out that we know arent into us.

    Case and point… If you (I am assuming you are a straight man) saw a sexy woman across the room you might look, check her out, and all of that, now put you in a small room like say the size of a shower in a barracks for example…but now also imagine that you know she isnt interested in you, as a matter of fact if she sees you looking over at her at all there is a chance shes going to kick you square in the neither region. This may be especially true if the person is also naked. Do you think your going to be stealing glances or fantasizing about her for long, no you will simply put that aside and deal with them in a civil way when you see them in clothes and just drop the issue.

    Why do you think gay people are any different in that regard. Just because it might be a man the out comes are all the same. (if not worse considering the average male is stronger than the average female, which is also taken into account for PT scores in the military…just so you don’t think i’m some sexist)

    now that is if she doesn’t want you oggling her for any reason, not just cause she isn’t into men at all, maybe she thinks your ugly, or maybe she doesn’t like you because you wrecked her car. Who cares why, the point is when you are in intimately close surroundings with people that you KNOW aren’t interested in you, and may even take offense to your showing interest, you don’t go oogling them wether you are straight bi or gay. Why you may ask, because it isn’t the way that most people work, you avoid conflicts that you know wont have a good outcome for you period. you can still think the girl is sexy, just don’t go staring at her boobs or *Whack* she may put her foot in your Y-fronts. same goes for guys.

    Any thing in your head that may be going “but…they are gay they are different” that is your own homophobia. you cant conceive of a gay man that isn’t attracted to every man he sees (goes for women too) but that just isn’t true. you aren’t attracted to every woman you see, now are you. it may even be someone pretty that you just say “shes got the looks but why would you touch someone that vile” Mrs. Palin comes to my mind. I’m sure you can think of more examples if you try.(I’m sure the would differ from my choices)

    with all that said I hope i helped you see why that statement is patently false. and i hope you realize that arguing with me on this is just stupid. you will only prove my point ans show others how homophobic you are.

    and for anyone that thinks grammar and english are so important that my point is moot because i wasn’t an English major….get over it. that sort of attack is called “ad hominem” and if you don’t know what that means you aren’t nearly as smart as you think you are.

  13. Fred says

    Bill’s assertion that somehow gay people have a magical ability to resist looking at unclothed members of the gender to whom they are attracted is mindless, babbling idiocy, IMO.

    Forcing anyone to serve in a unit with someone who makes them sexually uncomfortable can have only negative effects.

    Less than 5% of the population is gay, yet you all seem to feel that their rights should trump the rights of the remaining 95%. It’s repulsive to watch.

    No, gays shouldn’t be killed, or beaten or skinned. But requiring them to keep their personal sexual predilections to themselves is absolutely OK. No person should be talking about what goes on in their bedroom, this is doubly so for anyone whose tastes are offensive to the overwhelming majority of those with whom they must live, share meals and showers with, and rely on.

    In the end, I believe this will lead to violence against gays. With DODT, I would have been very against that violence. Now? If you make a bed, you should fully expect to lie in that bed one day.

    This kind of forced coexistence is exactly the kind of thing to make people like myself, fairly neutral on this topic, form an opinion very quickly. When you’re gay it doesn’t effect me, when you’re gay in MY shower, it certainly does effect me.

    Enjoy sowing what you have reaped, I’m sure it won’t be pretty.

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