'Don't ask, don't tell' is affirmed by appeals court
WASHINGTON — The military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” law will stay in effect for the foreseeable future, after a federal appeals court Monday ruled against a gay rights group’s request to repeal the law immediately.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had previously halted a lower court’s injunction against enforcing the law, but last week heard arguments from both the government and the Log Cabin Republicans on whether to lift that stay while the appeals process took place.
Two of the three judges on the appeals panel agreed with Justice Department lawyers who argued that an immediate end to the law, which bars gays from serving openly in the ranks, could cause a significant and dangerous disruption to the armed forces. The third judge wrote that he would have preferred to hear more extensive oral arguments before halting the order.
The move provides a temporary victory for President Barack Obama, who has publicly pushed for a legislative repeal of the 17-year-old “don’t ask, don’t tell” law but also argued against allowing the courts to abolish the law. A bill to repeal the law is currently stalled in the Senate.
Gay rights groups had argued that the administration should drop their appeal of the lower court’s injunction and get rid of the law, but White House spokesman Robert Gibbs has repeatedly said that the president prefers to deal with a repeal “in an orderly way.”
The move provides more certainty for military commanders, who last month were briefly forced to admit gay recruits because of the lower court injunction. Now, with the indefinite stay, defense officials will be able to enforce the law without violating judicial orders.
Gay rights groups had hoped the appeals panel would reinstate the injunction, but expected Monday’s ruling. Members of the pro-repeal Servicemembers Legal Defense Network issued a statement late Monday warning closeted servicemembers not to change their behavior, because any public admission of their homosexuality could jeopardize their careers.