The Obama Administration asked a federal appeals court to reconsider its order that put an immediate end to the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy on gays and lesbians serving in the military.
Lawyers for the Justice Department today asked the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco to reverse its July 6 decision granting a request by the Log Cabin Republicans, a group that promotes equal rights for gays and lesbians, to block further enforcement of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” while it reviews a lower-court ruling declaring the law unconstitutional.
The appeals court issued its order “based in part on an apparent understanding that the government is not defending the constitutionality” of the policy, Henry C. Whitaker, a Justice Department lawyer, wrote in a letter to the court today. “That understanding is incorrect.”
President Barack Obama on Dec. 22 signed into law legislation lifting the 1993 policy. The White House said then that it would take months for new rules to be put in place. On July 6, Marine Colonel Dave Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, said in an e-mail that certification of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” -- required for the law to take effect -- was just “weeks away.”
Repeal Under Way
U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips in Riverside, California, ruled Sept. 9 that the policy, which prohibits gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military, violates constitutionally protected due process and free speech rights.
In its July 6 opinion, the three-judge appeals court panel noted that the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is under way, and that the Obama administration no longer opposes court challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages for purposes of taxes, Social Security and other federal programs.
The Justice Department, in today’s request for the order putting the lower-court ruling on hold to be reinstated, said it is asking the court to “permit the orderly process for repealing” the policy to resume.
“It is sad and disappointing that the government continues to try to prevent openly gay and lesbian Americans from serving in our armed forces,” Dan Woods, a lawyer representing the Log Cabin Republicans, said in an e-mailed statement.
“While we expect to win, the government’s goal in its filing today can only be to delay the inevitable day when all Americans will be able to serve our country honorably and patriotically, regardless of their orientation,” Woods said.
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