October 4, 2010 at 7:02 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Udall, Gillibrand circulate ‘Don’t Ask’ petition

Colorado Senator Mark Udall (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Two U.S. senators at the forefront of efforts in Congress to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” are circulating a petition among supporters urging the U.S. Justice Department not to appeal a recent court ruling against the 1993 law.

On Monday, the campaigns for Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) sent out an e-mail blast asking supporters of open service in the U.S. military to sign a petition against a possible appeal while calling “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” an “outmoded law that hurts our military readiness.”

“Too many brave men and women have been hurt by ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,'” the letter states. “We must not lose one more service member because of this nonsensical law. As the judge ruled, [‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’] actually hurts our national security — and that is unacceptable at a time of two wars.”

In September, a federal district court in California determined in the case of Log Cabin Republicans v. United States that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is unconstitutional because it violates the First and Fifth Amendment rights of gay, lesbian and bisexual servicemembers.

The Justice Department has already issued an objection to the military-wide injunction against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” that plaintiffs have proposed as a result of winning the case.

However, U.S. District Court Virginia Phillips hasn’t yet entered judgment for the lawsuit and there is no set time for her to take that action. Once she enters judgment, the Justice Department will have 60 days to make a decision on whether or not to appeal the case to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Udall letter says an appeal from the Justice Department would undermine efforts in Congress to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“Senator Gillibrand and I understand that only action by Congress can bring real finality to this issue,” the Udall letter states. “However, we believe an appeal of the recent federal court decision could set back efforts in the Senate to repeal [‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’]”

Last month, the Senate was unable to debate major defense legislation containing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal language because a vote of cloture on moving forward with the bill failed by 56-43. The votes of 60 senators were needed for the legislation to come to the Senate floor.

The Udall and Gillibrand petition comes on the heels of a letter the senators sent to the Justice Department advising the administration not to appeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” decision. A similar letter signed by 68 U.S. House members was also made public last month.

Udall and Gillibrand are circulating their letter among U.S. senators in hopes of finding more signatures to make a stronger statement to the Justice Department. A Democratic aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the letter currently has 16 signatures.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

  • Obama had better not opt to appeal the decision to overturn DADT, because its obvious Congress can’t and/or won’t take action to repeal it. If the justice department opts not to appeal the decision it can be effectively overturned. I think Obama and the Dems owe us that, and they better not hide behind the bogus excuse of having to defend it the way they did with DOMA.

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