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)

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

US States Where Women Work for Free

Women earn less than men in all 50 states More

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

At a recent even in Seoul, border communities promoted benefits of increased cooperation and North Korean defectors shared stories of life since the war More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows Fight to Death Against IS

In wide-ranging interview, Fuad Masum describes new type of fight that will take time to win 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.
Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs