Justice Dept Forced to Defend “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”


Although “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” – the law which barred openly gay, lesbian and bisexual troops from serving in the military – was repealed in December 2010, military training and adjustments have been progressing at a slow enough pace to draw criticism from many advocates of equality, reports The New York Times.

President Obama enthusiastically signed the repeal on December 22 after making a presidential campaign promise in 2008 to end the 17-year-old law. But the law will not end until 60 days after he, the defense secretary, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify that the military is adequately prepared. “At this time, there are no new changes to any existing department or service policies,” clarified Defense Secretary Robert Gates after Obama approved the repeal. The Obama administration has since set August as an estimated date of implementation. Aubrey Sarvis, the executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, responded by pointing out, “I don’t think it takes the better part of a year to bring about this change.”

Furthermore, the Justice Department is expected to defend the discriminatory measure in a California federal court this week. The lawsuit was filed by the Log Cabin Republicans and is proceeding while the law remains in effect. After the Congressional vote, the Justice Department asked that the case be suspended while the Pentagon works towards abolishing the law, but the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied this request in late January. The Log Cabin Republicans previously agreed to delay the lawsuit on the condition “that the government halt all pending investigations and discharges during the period of delay,” but the government refused.

The military begun training personnel last week through classes, discussion groups and other ways in order to ensure understanding of the new rules.

Criticisms of the Justice Department’s defense of the law come at a pivotal time, as the Obama administration just today announced its decision to stop defending the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” in court because it believes it to be unconstitutional. This means that Congress must now defend the law against challengers. DOMA allows states not to recognize marriages between gay and lesbian couples performed in other states, and restricts the federal definition of marriage to a man and woman. Some believe that the President’s opinions on LGB inclusion in the military may now push him in a positive direction towards marriage equality. “Particularly after DADT repeal, this is a further expression of his commitment to doing away with discrimination,” commented Rep. Barney Frank.

GLAAD will continue to report on the progress of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal and encourage media outlets to tell fair and accurate stories of the people affected by this law.


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