DADT Back in Obama’s Court

Now that the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has stalled in the Senate, the Obama administration is back in the the awkward position of deciding whether to defend a a policy in court they’ve already said they don’t agree with.

A US District Court in California determined earlier this month that the controversial, 17-year-old ban on gays serving openly in the military is unconstitutional. Last week, the plaintiffs in the case sought an injunction to bar the military from enforcing the policy. If the Obama administration decides to appeal and ask the court to deny the injunction, it needs to do so by the end of the day today.

Or the Department of Justice could just let it go, which would effectively end enforcement of DADT—a policy that Obama has said he wants thrown out, even as the Department of Justice has defended it in court. The administration has said it believes that Congress should determine military policy, not the courts. But with movement on the issue blocked in the Senate, the administration will have to decide today how it wants to proceed.

Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) urged Attorney General Eric Holder to allow the court’s decision to stand in a letter last week: “As one of many criteria that the Justice Department will examine in deciding whether to appeal a potential permanent injunction to this policy, we ask that you examine whether or not an appeal furthers a legitimate governmental interest. We would say any appeal does not.”

President Obama was heckled at a Democratic fundraiser last night over the issue, and groups like the Human Rights Campaign have also urged Holder not to appeal the decision.

“If Attorney General Eric Holder takes leadership, he can help the Obama Administration make history, joining a federal court in the judgment that discrimination—especially against those willing to take a bullet for their country—is un-American,” said Rick Jacobs, chair of the Courage Campaign, in an email to supporters Thursday morning asking them to contact the DOJ on the issue.

How will the Obama administration proceed? Guess we’ll find out shortly.


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  • Kate Sheppard was a staff reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau from 2009 to 2013. She is now a senior reporter and the energy and environment editor at The Huffington Post. She can be reached by email at kate (dot) sheppard (at) huffingtonpost (dot) com and you can follow her on Twitter @kate_sheppard.