Over the years, we’ve heard stories from hundreds of military service members who’ve been fired from their job for being gay or lesbian.
Jene Newsome of South Dakota was outed when police officers claim they saw a wedding license sitting on her kitchen table through a window. She wasn’t asked. She didn’t tell. She had played by the rules of the bigoted policy and was still discharged.
Jene’s story is one of thousands. Several of these service members’ stories are highlighted in Servicemembers Legal Defense Network’s project, Stories from the Frontlines and we recommend you check them out.
The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has had a tumultuous few months. President Obama promised a repeal in his first year in office and then promised a year later to work with Congress on the repeal during his State of the Union Address last February. Since then, there have been Congressional testimonies from military leaders, “studies” done to ask the opinion of those currently serving on how the law should be repealed, and finally an unsuccessful vote to even debate the National Defense Authorization Act (which the repeal had been attached to), we now have some more judicial news.
Last month, the Log Cabin Republicans brought a case to the Federal Court arguing that DADT was unconstitutional. The judge found in their favor and ordered the military to stop enforcing DADT. Obama’s Department of Justice decided to fight this, claiming that DADT should be repealed legislatively and not through the courts (despite the fact that the Legislature had failed miserably to even bring up the debate on it). Today, we have news from The Advocate that U.S. district judge Virginia A. Phillips ordered the Defense Department to “immediately to suspend and discontinue any investigation, or discharge, separation, or other proceeding” related to “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
The President has argued that signing an Executive Order (which would not repeal the law, but stop enforcement of the law until it is repealed) would be an abuse of his power. Though Executive Orders were a regular activity for the previous administration, Obama hoped to change that.
But with today’s appeal ruling, Obama once again has the opportunity to simply stop appealing and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will be history. Every contemporary President before him has made the choice not to defend court findings that they felt were in line with their beliefs and their constituency’s beliefs – and considering the fact that 80% of Americans would like to see DADT repealed, it seems like a no-brainer.
The repeal of DADT three weeks before midterm elections might have the effect of energizing Democratic voters (who up until now don’t have much of a desire to show up). What will it be, Mr. President? Will you keep defending the bigoted law or will you do what’s right now that you have the silver platter of opportunity right in front of you?