Good News/Bad News on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

From today’s post at the American Bar Association, we have a good news/bad news scenario.

The good news:

The Obama administration has opted not to appeal a ruling by a San Francisco-based appeals court reinstating a challenge to the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gay service members.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that the government would have to show its policy on gays in the military meets a heightened standard of scrutiny, a decision that makes it easier for plaintiff Margaret Witt to win her case. The May 3 deadline for appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court has passed, the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) reports.

But before we start celebrating, here’s the bad news:

White House spokesman Ben LaBolt told the newspaper the administration will continue to defend the law in trial court when the case is remanded, the newspaper says. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” allows gays to serve in the military as long as they don’t disclose their sexual preference.

“Until Congress passes legislation repealing the law, the administration will continue to defend the statute when it is challenged in the justice system,” LaBolt said. He added that Obama still backs repealing the don’t ask, don’t tell policy “in a sensible way that strengthens our armed forces and our national security.”

Witt was fired when the Air Force learned she had lived with another woman in their home off the base. She had earned stellar reviews during her 18-year military career.

So the Obama administration again tries to have it both ways, arguing that he wants the law changed–even going so far as to say DADT “isn’t working for our national interests”– but that he has no choice but to defend the policy.

But of course, he does have a choice. He could choose to direct the Justice Department to drop this and the Defense Department to stop investigating and discharging soldiers because they’re gay. He could take a red pen to his budget proposal and de-fund the DADT program. He could schedule meetings with Congressional leaders and move forward on repealing DADT, a step that most Americans agree with.

He could do those things, but it would mean getting his hands dirty with a politically touchy subject. Unfortunately for us, all of our subjects are politically touchy. That’s why there’s been no comment from the President himself, and that’s why there won’t be until people put enough pressure on him to fulfill his promise.

You can’t play it safe forever, Mr. President. The time for this nonsense is long since passed.

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