WASHINGTON — The Obama Justice Department on Thursday announced plans to appeal a federal judge’s ruling on the unconstitutionality of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and asked for an emergency stay of the decision, which halted the enforcement of the anti-gay military policy.
The government suggested in its court filing that the injunction ordered by Phillips could interfere with military operations and unit cohesion during wartime, and that the fate of the anti-gay ban should be left to Congress—and then only after the completion and review of extensive military research on the subject.
“The stakes here are so high, and the potential harm so great, that caution is in order,” claimed Clifford L. Stanley, the under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness.
The Justice Department’s decision to appeal Phillips’ ruling came as little surprise to most: The DOJ traditionally defends acts of Congress and gave little indication it would stray from procedure in this case despite the White House’s stated opposition to DADT. However, the administration delivered its appeal and request to stay the injunction at a politically tremulous time for President Obama, who, on the cusp of midterm elections, is scrambling to energize the voters that swept him into office—many of whom are disgruntled by the president’s perceived inaction on campaign promises such as DADT’s repeal.
“We are not surprised by the government’s action, as it repeats the broken promises and empty words from President Obama to end ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ while at the same directing his Justice Department to defend this unconstitutional policy,” said Dan Woods, a lawyer representing the Log Cabin Republicans, the plaintiffs in the case resulting in the injunction. The group has vowed to fight both the appeal and request for an emergency stay by the Justice Department.
President Obama led a town hall-style meeting with young adults on Thursday in which he reasserted his personal opposition to DADT and forecast the ban’s demise, but backed his administration’s legal defense of the policy and was vague on how he would actively seek its abolition going forward.
“It has to be done in a way that is orderly, because we are involved in a war right now. But this is not a question of whether the policy will end. This policy will end, and it will end on my watch. But I do have an obligation to make sure that I’m following some of the rules. I can’t simply ignore laws that are out there. I’ve got to work to make sure that they are changed,” the president told attendees.
Per Phillips’ ruling, the Pentagon has ordered the various branches of the armed forces to immediately cease the enforcement of DADT. The government asked Phillips to rule on the Justice Department’s requested stay by 3pm Monday.