News: DADT Still Alive and Kicking
A federal appeals court on Wednesday granted the Obama administration’s emergency request for a stay against a lower court order lifting the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy barring openly gay service members.
The ruling by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco added to the disarray surrounding a landmark legal battle that already has forced the U.S. military to welcome openly gay recruits for the first time. The ruling was issued in response to an emergency request from the Department of Justice and allows the Pentagon to continue enforcing the policy, which bars openly gay, lesbian and bisexual service members.
The decision, which returns the law to the status quo, will be in effect while the appeals court considers whether to issue a longer stay, until February, when the Ninth Circuit will hear the full appeal.
DADT was first introduced by President Bill Clinton in 1993 and was a compromise between the administration and Congress over the president’s desire to allow gays and lesbians to serve in the armed forces. Efforts to repeal DADT gained momentum with the election of President Barack Obama in 2008, who publicly opposed the policy.
On September 9, Judge Virginia A. Phillips of Federal District Court in California struck down DADT as unconstitutional in an opinion citing the Fifth and First Amendments. “The ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ act infringes the fundamental rights of United States service members in many ways,” she wrote in an 86-page opinion. “In order to justify the encroachment on these rights, defendants faced the burden at trial of showing the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ act was necessary to significantly further the government’s important interests in military readiness and unit cohesion. Defendants failed to meet that burden.”
The stay by the 9th Circuit Court almost certainly means the government will go back to enforcing the law as it did before the lower court issued an injunction against it. However, military recruiting stations did get a brief taste of what life might be like in a world without ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ when ex-servicemen showed up to re-enlist. The most notable figure among the re-enlisters was Irag-war veteran, Lt. Dan Choi, who was discharged after he came out as being gay.
Dan Woods, the lawyer for the Log Cabin Republicans, called the stay a “minor setback” and predicted a victory on the question of the long-term stay. “We didn’t come this far to quit now,” he said.
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