U.S. seeks ‘don’t ask’ delay
White House urges judge to stay ruling ending ban
WASHINGTON – After two days of silence, the Obama administration urged a federal judge on Thursday to let the military press on with its “don’t ask, don’t tell” ban on gays serving openly in the military. Still, President Barack Obama insisted the policy that has divided the nation for two decades “will end on my watch.”
The Pentagon said the military “will of course obey the law” and halt enforcement while the case is still in question. But gay rights advocates cautioned gay service members to avoid revealing their sexuality in the meantime.
A federal judge abruptly threw out the Clinton-era ban on Tuesday, setting in motion a legal, political and human-rights back-and-forth that put the administration on the spot just two weeks before crucial midterm elections. Obama has consistently argued against the ban, approved by Congress in 1993. But he says it is up to Congress to repeal it.
Obama’s Justice Department asked U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips to stay her ruling that overturned the ban while the government prepares a formal appeal. Asking the judge for a response by Monday – “given the urgency and gravity of the issues” – the government said that suddenly ending the ban would be disruptive and “irreparably harm the public interest in a strong and effective military.”
Obama, challenged Thursday at a town hall meeting by a Howard University faculty member who questioned his “alleged commitment to equality for all Americans, gay and straight,” said his stance has not wavered. He can’t end the ban with the stroke of a pen, he said, but “we’re going to end this policy.”
The Obama administration also filed a one-page court notice that it is appealing the case to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
Speaking at an event sponsored by entertainment networks MTV, BET and CMT, Obama said, “Congress explicitly passed a law that took away the power of the executive branch to end this policy.” He called on the Senate to join the House in passing legislation that would let him end the ban.
“We have, I believe, enough votes in the Senate to go ahead and remove this constraint on me,” he said. He added, “Anybody should be able to serve – and they shouldn’t have to lie about who they are in order to serve.”