On Sept. 9, U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips ruled “don’t ask, don’t tell,” unconstitutional as a violation of free speech and equal protection rights. The policy is a prohibition on openly gay service members in the military. Last Wednesday, an appeals court temporarily overturned the measure by request of the Justice Department. This has led to tremendous confusion over whether veterans ousted from the military can re-enlist, and has caused controversy over whether the law should even remain in place.
The “don’t ask don’t tell” policy was passed in 1993 as a compromise between allowing gays to serve openly and prohibiting it completely. Proponents claim that it does not discriminate against gays and simply tells service members of any sexual orientation to refrain from discussing their orientation. However, the bill is clearly targeted exclusively at homosexuals. In addition, as Phillips noted, the act violates gay service members’ rights to free speech and equal protection under the law.
The Obama administration said it is opposed to the bill. Unfortunately, members still support it through their actions.
Obama said he wanted the bill repealed by Congress, not via the judicial process. He claimed he would work with Congress to repeal the law after the elections.
Let’s stop there for a minute. After the elections? When you hear those three words, you know it’s just smoke and mirrors for “we’ll never get it done.” It’s a claim made over and over again in politics. Even worse than that, Obama wants to delay the repeal until Congress can repeal it, rather than simply let the district court’s ruling stand.
It’s ironic that Obama can’t see why this is such a bad idea. During the 1950s, the NAACP realized that Congress would not approve a civil rights bill, so they used the U.S. Supreme Court to get the civil rights ball rolling with desegregation of public schools in Brown v. Board of Education.
Similarly, in repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the courts are more keen to the constitutional violations in the policy than Congress is. The courts are also more likely to oppose it, as the U.S. District Court’s ruling indicates. The fact that Obama would want to reverse a decision overruling “don’t ask, don’t tell” shows that he says one thing but thinks the other.
It’s time that Obama stops the hypocrisy and allows the District Court’s ruling to stand. This will continue the development of civil rights that has been absent in this country for far too long.