News / USA

Judicial Battle Continues Over Repeal of Openly-Gay Military Service Ban

Service members stand together after they handcuffed themselves to the fence outside the White House in Washington during a protest for gay rights, 16 April 2010 (file photo)
Service members stand together after they handcuffed themselves to the fence outside the White House in Washington during a protest for gay rights, 16 April 2010 (file photo)
TEXT SIZE - +

The U.S. Defense Department says it has told military recruiters to begin processing applications from potential recruits who state they are homosexual.  Tuesday's announcement was in response to a court order by a federal judge who suspended the Pentagon's policy that requires homosexual service members to keep their sexual orientation a secret, and bans recruiters and commanders from asking about it.  Meanwhile, the judge has indicated that she will turn down the Obama administration's request for a stay of last week's ruling that ended the expulsion of gays from the U.S. military. President Barack Obama now finds himself in a paradox; urging Congress to repeal the law, while defending it in court.

Enacted in 1993, the law known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" allows homosexuals to serve in the U.S. armed forces as long as their sexuality remains secret.  President Barack Obama says the law is discriminatory and detrimental to national security, as it has led to the expulsion of more than 14,000 military personnel

"This policy will end, and it will end on my watch," said President Obama.

Last week, a federal judge found "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" unconstitutional, and ordered the military to halt all investigations and discharges of gay service members.  Civil-rights groups urged the White House to accept the ruling and decline to appeal, effectively killing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

But President Obama says he is duty-bound to defend existing laws in court - even laws he wants to end.  "I do have an obligation to make sure I am following the rules.  I cannot simply ignore laws that are out there.  I have to make sure they are changed."

And the path to change, according to the president, is through Congress.

The House of Representatives already has voted to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" - but just weeks ago the U.S. Senate failed to overcome a Republican filibuster of a defense bill that included repeal of the law.  

The White House continues to insist the law will end, but sources on Capitol Hill are not so sure.  A spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said there are "no guarantees" the votes will materialize to repeal the law in a post-election session of Congress or next year, when Republicans are expected to have more seats in both chambers.

Arizona Republican Senator John McCain, who led the procedural maneuver blocking debate on ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" last month, has pledged to do so again in December.  "Absolutely.  I will filibuster or stop it from being brought up."

Congressional observer Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute doubts Senate Democrats will overcome another filibuster in the so-called "lame duck" session of Congress.

"There simply will not be the time or the inclination to take this all the way to the limit," said Ornstein.  "And so I suspect we are going to have to wait for another day to see a real resolution of the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' question."

In fact, some advocates for gay service members fear the best chance for repealing the law may be over.

Servicemembers United director, Alex Nicholson, is a former Army intelligence specialist and Arabic linguist who was discharged under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in 2002.

Nicholson believes President Obama genuinely wants to change the law, but has not been aggressive enough in fighting for it.  But Nicholson has not abandoned hope entirely, noting that a Pentagon study on the impact of repealing the law is due in December.

"Although we are not as optimistic about getting repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' in the next Congress, one thing we will have on our side is this [Pentagon] report," said Nicholson.  "And so if in the next Congress we tackle 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' we will have a road map from the military laying out all the issues they may have to deal with, with existing contingency plans for dealing with those issues."

Nicholson hopes the report will allay concerns among moderate Republicans in the Senate who say the ban is unjust, but nonetheless voted to sustain last month's filibuster.
Nicholson also said he would prefer President Obama not defend "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in court.

Georgetown University constitutional law professor Susan Bloch says, however, the president's hands are tied.  "It is the tradition that the administration will defend the law in most cases.  And the challenge in the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law is a challenge of the individual rights of the service members, not a constitutional challenge to executive power."

Meanwhile, the United States is witnessing, and the U.S. military is experiencing, the de facto halt of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law.  

For years, defenders of the policy predicted chaos and dissension in the armed forces if gay discharges were halted.  A Pentagon spokesman said Monday that no disciplinary problems or mass-resignations have been reported since last week's judicial injunction.

Public-opinion polls show roughly three-fourths of Americans support allowing gays to serve openly in the military.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid