Equal rights advocates seemed to earn a victory last month when Virginia A. Phillips of Federal District Court declared Don’t Ask Don’t Tell unconstitutional, and issued an injunction last week requiring the military to stop enforcing the policy immediately. However, in a step back from one of his campaign promises, the Obama Administration has asked the judge for an emergency stay of her decision.
The motion argues that the military should not be forced to make any sudden or immediate changes during wartime, and that such a dramatic shift could throw off any future plans to repeal the policy. The call for an emergency stay angered gay and lesbian advocacy groups who have already felt slighted by the lack of action on behalf of Obama, who claimed repealing the decades-old military policy was a priority on the campaign trail.
“We are not surprised by the government’s action, as it repeats the broken promises and empty words from President Obama avowing to end ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ while at the same directing his Justice Department to defend this unconstitutional policy,” Dan Woods, a lawyer representing the Log Cabin Republicans, the group that raised the lawsuit to end the practice, told The New York Times.
The president addressed the the issue at a town hall meeting on Thursday, and while he agreed on the principle to end the policy, he added that it needs to be done in an orderly fashion. Obama also stressed that, although it may take longer than thought, the policy “will end, and it will end on my watch.”
The Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, which denies gay men and lesbians the ability to serve openly in the military, has been in place since 1993. An effort to repeal the legislation was stalled earlier this year when a John McCain-led filibuster prevented a vote on the Defense Authorization Act, which included an amendment to end the the practice.