Main | Thursday, October 21, 2010

Special DADT Report From Rex Wockner

The below is a special to JMG report on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" from veteran gay reporter Rex Wockner.

Don't Ask Don't Tell Roller Coaster

The Obama administration resuscitated the Don't Ask, Don't Tell gay ban Oct. 20 by convincing the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to temporarily stay an injunction by a federal district judge in Riverside, Calif.

U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips had found the ban unconstitutional and barred any further use of it worldwide effective Oct. 12. In response, the military stopped kicking out openly gay and lesbian servicemembers and began letting open gays and lesbians sign up to enlist.

But the Obama administration -- which says it strongly opposes DADT -- immediately began fighting to bring the ban back to life, ultimately succeeding eight days later.

The Justice Department argued that an abrupt end to the ban would be harmful to the military in myriad ways. Judge Phillips was wholly unconvinced and refused to stay her injunction. The 9th Circuit, on the other hand, issued a brief stay -- until at least Oct. 25 -- while it considers issuing a longer stay.

The administration also said it wants Congress, not the courts, to end the ban. The House of Representatives voted to end the ban earlier this year but the Senate refused after a filibuster by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

There is no indication that the Senate will change its mind when it returns to Washington for the lame-duck session following the Nov. 2 elections, even though the DADT repeal measure is a part of the bill that funds the entire U.S. military for next year. McCain's filibuster also left the overall military funding measure unpassed.

"Really, what's in my heart right now is it's going to be really hard for me to vote for Barack Obama," prominent gays-in-the-military activist Dan Choi said in an interview. Choi re-enlisted in the Army at the Times Square recruiting station in New York on Oct. 19.

"Call me a one-issue person, but this is really pissing me off," Choi added. "When Congress has a law that's unconstitutional, it's the job of the courts to call it unconstitutional. That's Civics day one. Obama's giving Don't Ask, Don't Tell mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. For him to do that at this point is upsetting, it's disgusting."

GetEQUAL director Robin McGehee called the government's successful push for a stay "a travesty."

"This ... brings the military's discriminatory Don't Ask, Don't Tell law back from the dead," she said. "It is a travesty that after numerous attempts, President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder will go down in history as the administration that breathed life back into Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The lives and careers of openly gay and lesbian servicemembers are now back in the crosshairs of our government and a renewed commitment to discrimination falls squarely in the hands of this White House."

Servicemembers United Executive Director Alexander Nicholson said he's hopeful the stay will last just a few days.

"An objective look at the evidence before the court clearly indicates that ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell would not harm military readiness, but would rather enhance it," he said.

Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese called DADT's resurrection "a sad day for all Americans."

"Today's decision only furthers our resolve to send this law to the dustbin of history and also draws a spotlight on the administration to make good on their pledge to end these discharges that damage our national security," he said.

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis said the stay dumped the ball back in the U.S. Senate's lap.

"Gay and lesbian servicemembers deserve better treatment than they are getting with this ruling," he said. "We now must look to the Senate next month in the lame-duck session to bring about the swift certainty needed here and to repeal this unjust law that serves no useful purpose."

[Photos and text by Rex Wockner]

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