Will the White House appeal latest DADT ruling?
Published: July 11, 2011
WASHINGTON — Critics of a court decision overturning the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law are urging President Barack Obama to appeal the ruling, even if it won’t stop the repeal of the controversial law.
On Friday, Defense Department officials announced they would halt all enforcement of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law and allow openly gay recruits to enlist, after a court ruling earlier in the week blocked enforcement of the law. That could change if Justice Department officials appeal the ruling, as they did in October, but they have not indicated whether the administration will do so.
In an statement released this weekend, the American Legion implored the White House to keep fighting the issue in court, saying the court actions create confusion and frustration for members of the military.
“By allowing judges to institute military policy, we diminish the roles of the secretary of defense, the joint chiefs of staff, Congress and the constitutionally mandated role of the nation’s commander-in-chief,” American Legion National Commander Jimmie Foster wrote. The Legion has publicly opposed repealing the 18-year-old ban on openly gay troops.
“Simply put, the military’s role is to fight and win our nation’s wars. Judges lack the expertise and, in my opinion, the authority on how to best do this. This lack of consistency and expertise by the courts makes it very difficult to operate a first-rate military, much less fight two wars.”
Members of the conservative Family Research Council also attacked the court ruling last week, saying in a statement that it “wrongly and irresponsibly usurped the role of Congress, the President and military leaders in setting policy for the armed forces.”
A three-judge panel in the Ninth Circuit Court is scheduled to hear arguments on the constitutionality of the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ law next month. If the White House decides not to fight the case, and the court agrees with the earlier ruling that the law is unconstitutional, it could open the door for lawsuits seeking back pay and benefits by troops dismissed for being gay.
Administration officials used that rationale to fight the ruling last in October, even as they publicly stated that they wanted the law repealed. Even if they win the legal fight on the issue, the law will still likely come off the books this fall, under plans laid out by Congress and the Pentagon late last year.
Still, Foster argues that the threat of legal precedent makes the courts fight necessary to “defend the president’s constitutional role as commander in chief.”
In a statement Friday, Defense Department spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said even though the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law isn’t being enforced, “it remains the policy of the Department of Defense not to ask servicemembers or applicants about their sexual orientation, to treat all members with dignity and respect, and to ensure maintenance of good order and discipline.”