(Photo: AP Images / Julie Jacobson
The Department of Justice filed an appeal Thursday against a federal judge’s order to stop enforcing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
The Obama administration asked for an emergency stay of U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips’ ruling, which called for an immediate suspension and discontinuation of “any investigation, or discharge, separation, or other proceeding, that may have been commenced” under the military policy. Halting enforcement of the policy would cause disruption and lead to military unreadiness, the administration contended.
Bruce Hausknecht, judicial analyst for Focus on the Family, said the appeal is “mixed good news” because he fears for the future protection of DADT. The U.S. government, Hausknecht said, “didn’t defend the [policy] very well in the first place. We’re not really encouraged that they will do a good job with the appeal.”
The Obama administration intends to reverse the Clinton-era policy that bars gays from serving openly in the military but it filed an appeal, defending the statute because that’s what is traditionally done when acts of Congress are challenged, Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said in a statement.
"The President believes and has repeatedly affirmed that 'don't ask, don't tell' is a bad policy that harms our national security and undermines our military effectiveness,” she added. “The President and his Administration are working with the military leadership and Congress to repeal this law."
Hausknecht said the appeal is going to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit where District Judge Ronald Leighton ruled last month against DADT to reinstate Maj. Margaret Witt, an Air Force flight nurse and a self-identified lesbian. Hausknecht said President Obama could have appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court but didn’t.
“It’s sabotaged the case,” he said.
Now, in asking the court to stop the injunction, the Justice Department “will have to ask the 9th Circuit Court to overturn [its] own ruling from its last case.”
DADT was made law in 1993 as a compromise between President Bill Clinton, who advocated lifting the ban on gays in the military and a conservative Congress, which advocated against it. Under the policy, gay and lesbian service members are restricted from openly acknowledging their sexual preference. Doing so means dismissal. According to a 2005 U.S. Government Accountability Office report, the DADT law has resulted in over 10,500 dismissals between 1995 and 2004.
Phillips ordered the halt to DADT legislation in reaction to a lawsuit filed by Log Cabin Republicans of America which challenged the 1993 law. Last month, Phillips ruled that DADT was unconstitutional. On Tuesday, she ordered a nation-wide injunction to halt DADT discharges.
Hausknecht fears that a federal ruling in favor of repealing DADT will hamper military chaplains and Christian soldiers from expressing their faith.
“Any kind of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal puts the religious liberties of chaplains at risk,” he highlighted.
In an openly gay and lesbian military, he said chaplains may be forced to adopt a condoning stance to homosexuality or face discipline. Similarly, Hausknecht said of soldiers, “If they talk about their faith with other soldiers, will those soldiers be disciplined?”
He believes DADT attacks are “establishing a new religion [in the military] that is pro-homosexuality.” A permanent injunction, he said, will give homosexuality “a moral rubber stamp of approval from the U.S. government.”