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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs