The celebration was short-lived for LGBT soldiers applauding a judge’s ruling that stopped enforcement of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy . That’s because on Wednesday a federal appeals court issued a ruling blocking a lower court’s decision, meaning that the policy barring gay and lesbian soldiers from serving openly in the military was back on.
According to CNN, the confusing, whirlwind series of events was capped on Wednesday by a ruling from a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which gave the Obama administration the delay it was looking for in challenging U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips’ order last week to stop enforcing the policy.
“The order is stayed temporarily in order to provide this court with an opportunity to consider fully the issues presented,” read the appellate panel’s ruling. The appeals court ruling gave the parties in the case until October 25 to file further documents. In a nutshell, that means a day after military leaders told recruiters to accept openly gay recruits for the first time in the U.S. military’s history, it was back to business as usual enforcing the 17-year-old policy.
And while Obama reiterated his desire to end “don’t ask” during an MTV forum last week, the line from the White House is that these efforts are being undertaken in order to ensure that the policy is repealed in the proper legal fashion.
“I agree with the basic principle that anybody who wants to serve in our armed forces and make sacrifices on our behalf, on behalf of our national security, anybody should be able to serve,” the president said during the forum, pledging that the policy “will end on my watch.” But, he added, “it has to be done in a way that is orderly,” again insisting that the word has to come from Congress.
The administration’s argument is that by so abruptly changing “don’t ask” it runs the risk of “causing significant immediate harm to the military and its efforts to be prepared to implement an orderly repeal of the statute.” The Department of Defense is conducting an internal review that is expected to produce a plan for ending “don’t ask” in December and CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said the administration would prefer that Congress deal with the issue rather than let courts decide it.
The House has already passed a measure that would repeal the policy after a military review and approval from the president, the defense secretary and Joint Chiefs chairman, but it got held up in the Senate earlier this summer.
CNN reported that the court battle by the administration, which it called a traditional political move, was intended to buy time to implement the repeal process agreed to by military leaders and included in the legislation before Congress in order to avoid further legal challenges down the line.
Then again, if the 9th Circuit eventually overturns Phillips’ ruling and Congress fails to take action, “don’t ask” could be back in full force and the administration would have to answer to critics once again.
Former Lt. Dan Choi, an infantry officer who was discharged under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy earlier this year, was one of the first soldiers to line up to re-enlist, turning in his Army paperwork on Wednesday. On Thursday morning, he appeared on CNN and expressed his disappointment with the latest turn of events.
“After ’don’t ask, don’t tell’ has been dead for a week. No enormous consequences, no people quitting the military because of honesty soldiers … and all of a sudden you see this president give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to discrimination and injustice,” an outraged Choi said.
“I don’t think they’re committed at all. It’s just politics,” Choi said, responding to suggestions that the maneuvers were simply an attempt by the administration to follow the rule of law in repealing the policy. “You’ve lost my trust.”