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

    S. African Farmer Goes From 'Voice in the Wilderness' to Sought-After Expert

    Margarest Roberts has authored more than 40 books on subjects like organic farming, urban agriculture, herbs and ‘superfoods'

    Millennial Men Prefer Bucks Over Beauty

    U.S. men aged 18 to 34 say the finances of a potential significant other are more important than her looks

    Multimedia Lebanese Clown Troupe Marks Valentine's Day Amid Stink

    Activists resort to unusual approaches to raise public awareness of country’s ongoing trash crisis

    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.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.