Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Is Obama Taking a Back Door Approach to Ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell?

Obama's decision to not fight what could be a landmark case for the Supreme Court makes me wonder if this is a change in strategy for the new president. Some gay activists and critics have accused the administration of dragging its' feet on gay rights issues.

Obama said during the 2008 presidential campaign, and continues to assert, that he wants to end "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", the Clinton-era ban on Gays and Lesbians serving openly in the military, legislatively in order to "do it right". But a case that began 2006 could indicate that the president is reacting to the pressure to to do something for LGBT community by doing nothing.

(From The Wall Street Journal) WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration has decided to accept an appeals-court ruling that could undermine the military's ban on service members found to be gay.

A federal appeals court in San Francisco last year ruled that the government must justify the expulsion of a decorated officer solely because she is a lesbian. The court rejected government arguments that the law banning gays in the military should have a blanket application, and that officials shouldn't be required to argue the merits in her individual case.

The administration let pass a May 3 deadline to appeal to the Supreme Court. That means the case will be returned to the district court, and administration officials said they will continue to defend the law there.

(From The Rev.)

Perhaps the administration is trying to buy time before the case of Air Force Maj. Margaret Witt goes to the Supreme Court until after he chooses a replacement for retiring Justice David Souter. The current court is stocked with conservative Bush and Reagan appointees who are less likely to overturn the 16-year-old policy. A more progressive justice could tip the scales in our favor.

In another twist, if the case were to go forward to the Supreme Court while the president is mulling his replacement for Souter, the process would be over-shadowed by controversy, especially with two out lesbians, Kathleen Sullivan and Pam Karlan in consideration. Whoever the nominee turns out to be, they are likely to be grilled about DADT and same-sex marriage during the confirmation process, especially by Republicans who have been screaming about "activist judges" for years.

Maybe this is just a delaying tactic that will allow the administration to come up with a legislative solution, which could take years. The White House has said that with the economy in the tank and two wars to fight, ending DADT is not a priority.

Still another possiblity is that the administration doesn't want Witt's case decided by the Supreme Court at all. If the case is decided in a lower court, the administration could choose not to appeal. The lower court ruling would stand and Obama would have achieved the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell by doing nothing.

It's difficult to read just where Obama is these days in his alleged commitment to the gay community. He's been virtually silent on our issues since the election. In recent weeks gay rights activists and the White House press corps have stepped up pressure on the administration to live up to the president's promise to make LGBT rights a priority. In a recent White House press briefing, Press Secretary, Robert Gobbs, stumbled though his answer to a reporters questions about ending DADT, while towing the party line.

1 comment:

  1. The Souter replacement is not a consideration. Souter often votes with the court's liberal minority. Kennedy would most likely be the swing vote in any 5-4 scenario dealing with gay rights issues.


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