The Obama administration on Thursday requested a stay with a California federal court against a recently issued injunction prohibiting enforcement of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” according to documents obtained by the Blade.
In the notices, the U.S. Justice Department seeks a stay from U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips, who issued the injunction on Tuesday, under the presumption that the Obama administration will appeal the ruling to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
“Defendants request that the Court issue an order to stay pending appeal of its Order, dated October 12, 2010 (Doc. 252), permanently enjoining enforcement of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ (DADT) statute, 10 U.S.C. § 654, and implementing regulations,” one notice states.
The Justice Department asks that the district court issue a stay before Monday. If a stay is not yet entered by that time, the administration says it will seek such action from the Ninth Circuit.
On Tuesday, Phillips issued an injunction prohibiting the U.S. government from enforcing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the wake of her court decision last month striking down the law. The Justice Department had 60 days from the time the injunction was issued to make an appeal to a higher court.
In a statement, Christian Berle, deputy executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, said he isn’t surprised the Obama administration is seeking a stay against the injunction. In 2004, his organization filed the lawsuit that led to the order.
“After years of fighting this lawsuit, Log Cabin Republicans expected that the Obama administration would continue to pull out all the stops to defend ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” Berle said. “Log Cabin Republicans will continue to advocate on behalf of the American servicemembers who everyday sacrifice in defense of our nation and our Constitution. If this stay is granted, justice will be delayed, but it will not be denied.”
Dan Woods, an attorney with White & Case LLP, which represented Log Cabin in court, swore to fight against the stay to ensure open service in the U.S. military.
“Now that the government has filed a request for a stay, we will oppose it vigorously because brave, patriotic homosexuals are serving in our Armed Forces to fight for all of our constitutional rights while the government is denying them theirs,” Woods said.
One of the notices offers a litany of reasons why the injunction against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” should be stayed. Some arguments are the injunction will “irreparably harm the public interest in a strong and effective military” and will require “a precipitous change in policy that threatens the public interest in a strong military.”
“The injunction forces the executive to immediately cease enforcing a statute enacted by Congress regarding military affairs, which alone creates harm justifying a stay,” the notice states. “The injunction also requires an immediate and dramatic change in policy without allowing time to do so in an orderly and comprehensive way.”
A footnote in the notice states that although President Obama opposes “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the administration feels compelled to defend the 1993 statute because it’s federal law.
“As the President has stated previously, the Administration does not support the [‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’] statute as a matter of policy and strongly supports its repeal,” the notices states. “However, the Department of Justice has long followed the practice of defending federal statutes as long as reasonable arguments can be made in support of their constitutionality, even if the Administration disagrees with a particular statute as a policy matter, as it does here.”
In a press conference Thursday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs reiterated Obama’s opposition to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” but said Congress should be responsible for ending the statute.
“The president believes that this is a policy that undermines our national security, discriminates against those who would sacrifice their lives for their country, and is unjust; that the policy needs to be changed and should be changed,” Gibbs said. “His hope is that the Senate will take up the legislation pending before them to do just that, as the House of Representatives has already done.”
Officials in the Obama administration publicly expressed concern about the injunction against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” this week.
According to the Associated Press, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters Wednesday that abruptly ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” would have “enormous consequences” for U.S. service members. A Pentagon working group is examining the way to implement repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and is expected to deliver a report to Gates by Dec. 1.
A co-founder of OutServe, a network for active duty LGBT service members, called Gates’ remarks”a direct attack against gay and lesbian military personnel” and denied there would be “enormous consequences” after lifting the ban on open service.
“The reality is unit cohesion is destroyed by directly making military members lie about themselves and that is a proven fact,” said the co-founder, who goes by the alias J.D. Smith because he currently serves in the U.S. military.
“By saying we would create ‘enormous consequences’ he [is] attacking us,” Smith continued. “No other group of currently serving military personnel would be attacked like this.”
In response to Gates’ comments, the Palm Center, a think tank on gays in the military at the University of California, Santa Barbara, issued a statement calling on Gates to identify the “enormous consequences” of ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” enforcement.
“Secretary Gates’ suggestion that ‘enormous consequences’ await any immediate implementation of openly gay service stands in stark contrast to the evidence from other foreign militaries,” said Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center. “Swift change and strong leadership were identified as the two key elements to this process. America is unique but we will not be the first nation to allow openly gay service, we will be the twenty-sixth.”