Tuesday September 14, 2010

Senate to Vote on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Repeal Next Week

Will Obama Justice Dept. defend ‘Don’t Ask’?

By Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 14, 2010 ( – Days after a federal court judge deemed unconstitutional the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) rule banning open homosexuals from serving in the U.S. military, the head of the Senate has indicated that the body will take up a repeal of the controversial ban next week.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) informed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) Monday afternoon of his plan to introduce a vote on a DADT ban for inclusion in a must-pass defense spending bill, according to aides cited by news sources on Capitol Hill.

An unofficial confirmation of the report came in the form of a Twitter message from Reid to popular singer and homosexualist icon Lady Gaga: “@ladygaga, there is a vote on #DADT next week. Anyone qualified to serve this country should be allowed to do so,” he wrote in a tweet noticed by the Hill.

Politico reports, however, that other factors may complicate the passage of the ban: Former Clinton White House attorney Richard Socarides told the news service that “the legislative vehicle that’s been set up” to carry the DADT ban through “seems to be in serious trouble,” due to other spending provisions that Obama may find objectionable enough to merit a veto.

The U.S. House of Representatives already voted against DADT in May. The House’s provision provides for DADT to be repealed only if President Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Mike Mullen sign off on the move as reasonable in light of a Pentagon report examining the effects of a repeal on military readiness. That report is due out December 1.

But before the report could be finished, a further blow was dealt to DADT in the form of a permanent injunction issued last Friday in federal court. Judge Virginia A. Phillips of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California issued the order after ruling that DADT, which requires homosexual military servicemen not to discuss their orientation or else face expulsion, violates their First Amendment rights. (See coverage here)

A constitutional law expert quoted by the National Law Journal on Monday questioned whether Justice Department attorneys under the Obama administration would move to protect DADT, in light of the president’s stated opposition to the policy.

“Given the position of the Obama administration, there’s a great likelihood he will not appeal the ruling,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California, Irvine School of Law. “If it isn’t appealed to the 9th Circuit, it has an excellent chance of standing.”

However, Chemerinsky also surmised that the ruling would have no precedential value outside the 9th Circuit Court. Thus, not only could the government decide that DADT should remain intact for military men and women living or stationed outside that district, he said, but also judges in other districts would not be bound to heed Phillips’ decision.

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