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Don't ask, Don't tell ban creates hot political problem for Obama just before crucial midterm elections

Florida protestors against the Obama administration's Dont Ask Dont Tell policy toward gays in the military greet the president Monday during his Miami fundraising trip

Don't ask, don't tell was totally banned by a federal judge near Los Angeles Tuesday, creating a major political predicament for Democratic President Barack Obama just 20 days before crucial midterm elections that already augured ill for his party.

The Don't Ask, Don't Tell military policy tolerates gay members of the armed forces as long as they remain silent about their sexual orientation.

It was actually instituted by a Democratic Congress and signed by a Democratic president in 1993 as a reform to prevent the military from actively seeking out gays in the services and discharging them. It has since come to be seen as a form of discrimination and a hot topic in liberal circles where politicians such as Obama have vowed to end it but have not done so.

Some 13,000 military members have been discharged under that policy since 1993.

However, there's been little movement toward actually ending the policy. A repeal effort is underway in Congress; the Democratic House passed a repeal this year, but the Democratic Senate did not.

Both Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have repeatedly appealed for patience within....

...the gay community while the military and administration conducts another review. But their appeals have been met by growing frustration and an Obama fundraising speech in California earlier this year was interrupted by shouted demands for repeal.

Monday's three-page order by District Judge Virginia Phillips in Riverside, California, instituted an immediate and permanent ban to the policy because, she wrote, it "infringes on the fundamental rights of United States service members and prospective service members.'' She said it violates due process and freedom of speech, and prohibits targeted service members from petitioning "the government for redress of grievances" to fight for their jobs when they are outed as homosexuals.

Under normal federal procedures the Justice Department would be obligated to appeal the ban, as it always does when defending acts of Congress in court.

The administration has known for more than a month that this decision was coming. Judge Phillips said on Sept. 9 that she considered the law unconstitutional. However, a spokesman said no appeal decision has been made. Or at least they are not yet prepared to announce it.

Fortunately for administration political reasons, Obama has 60 days to file an appeal, a timespan that will get him past the Nov. 2 midterm elections when numerous current polls indicate his party will likely endure a shellacking in congressional elections, and possibly at state levels as well.

Appealing the court's ruling now would anger a major element of the Democrat base, possibly adversely affecting some elections and widespread turnout. A decision not to appeal would be the easiest for the administration, which could simply abide by the court's ruling.

That could, however, cause further damage among conservatives and many in the military who favor Don't Ask, Don't Tell as is. And not proceeding would shortcircuit the ongoing review within the military community. So, a decision to postpone the decision seems most likely.

In a news release Monday, the Log Cabin Republicans, which brought the case, expressed pleasure with the ruling but urged caution on members of the military contemplating coming out since the administration might still appeal.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Pat Carter / Associated Press (Protestors against the administration's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy greet Obama during his Florida fundraising trip Monday).

Comments () | Archives (15)

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This is what I am concerned about. The GOP should be focusing on fiscal and regulatory matters. Instead they will spending all their time on DADT.

GOP -- just drop it. Please.

[...] Appealing the court's ruling now would anger a major element of the Democrat base, possibly adversely affecting some elections and widespread turnout. [...]

1) The truth of the matter is that the appeal will not affect the Dem base, just some fringe gay groups (of a minuscule minority of less than 1% of this nation), which anyway make no difference, electorally -

2) And the beautiful side of this - anything that ruins the Democrats is welcome. The collection of radicals that have highjacked this party have run the ship aground - and we must make sure that this ghost ship will remain there for as long as possible - and since any further development in this gay rights absurdity is ruinous for Dems, let's cheer it - hehehe -

It is clear that the majority of the American public supports Gays openly serving in the military. The legislation to repeal DADT passed the House and would have passed the Senate with a comfortable majority if Republicans had not resorted to the underhanded "filibuster" tactics. The Obama Administration itself stated repeatedly that it considers DADT policy unfair. There should be NO appeal by the Administration of this very informed and intelligent judicial decision!

"That could, however, cause further damage among conservatives and many in the military who favor Don't Ask, Don't Tell as is."

Little news flash: All those who favor the current policy would never vote for a democrat anyway, so who cares?

There is no questioning the courage of individual gay service members. But many arguments made on their behalf have no application to the military. It is a community unique and seperate. The effectiveness of our military would inevitably be affected because of the many changes that would be made necessary by allowing openly gay people to serve.

I think that a person's sexual orientation has nothing to do with their ability to do their job well! And, personally, I don't need to know a person's lifestyle to like them or work with them! I wouldn't want to know what another person does on their own time. Just as I feel that my personal life is my business. I would not tell someone what my marriage is like. That just opens someone up for criticism, or judgmental feelings on the job. In a time of war, people could open up about things in their lives, but focusing on things that are not directly related and are really unimportant, can do more harm than good! Your private life should be only between you and close friends! God bless our military!

I do not at this time approve of homosexuality but I think this decision should really be something that people in the military should be voting on. After all, the military is their chosen profession and these types of decisions affect them the most. I hear and understand the arguments that they want to be treated equal, but let's face it...homosexuality is very different from heterosexuality, both religiously and in regards to nature. I am tolerant of homosexuality and I often speak softly about my own personal believes. I am intelligent enough to know that many of my thoughts about the subject are directly related to my upbringing and religion. I have tried very hard to understand and accept homosexuality, but think this decision should be left up to the folks that are put in harms way.

As a former military person who has witness the changes in a unit when someone admits that they are gay, I'm concerned about changing the policy. Remember what happened when Tyler Clementi room mate outed him? It was wrong, but what happened, Tyler killed himself. What will happen to a person in the military? Jump off a ship in the ocean, walk infront of a aircraft? Here is another thought, if gays can be open in the U.S., why are there new gay hate crime laws?

I'm still puzzled by this movement - to the best of my knowledge, DADT did nothing to reverse the military regulations prohibiting gays serving; it merely precluded investigations unless and until there was a "tell" in a legal sense (excessive gay behavior, etc) that began the process whereby an "ask" (investigation) was warranted. In other words, it made a slight change to military regulations making "everyone straight until proven gay" and precluded preemptive considerations.

So - judicially or legislatively we repeal that, then... back to business as usual, where homosexuality is actively investigated on suspicion, and it becomes "presumed gay until proven straight".

How does this help? Gays still get kicked out, and in the vastly greater numbers that were the case before DNDT came into being!

First off, have any of you served? Do you know the stress levels you're put under in the AOR? Statistically, there are more sexual assaults on males, by males (By A Large Margin) in the AOR, than there are in the states at home bases. So, that being said, would you want to know what the person sleeping in the tent next to you, seperated by nothing but a sheet hanging from a pole, is thinking about before they go to sleep? Personally, I would NOT. Also, I agree with anthony!

If DADT is repealed, then you can't have openly gay servicemen sleeping and showering in the same room with str8 servicemen. This puts the str8 servicemen in a very uncomfortable situation, which is no different than if you have women servicemen sleeping and showering in the same room with them. When they are undressing and showering, they don't want these gay men making passes at them or getting sexually turned on by their nudity. I don't think most people even have a clue how uncomfortable this is going to be to have gays and str8's sleeping in the same quarters and undressing and showering in the same room together. The situation is no different than if you would have women sleeping in the same quarters as the men or women showering with the men. We would never even think of doing this, so how can you have gay men sleeping and showering in a room with other men when they they are going to get sexually turned on by their nudity.

The str8s also have rights and should not be forced to undress and shower in front of other gay whom they will know are gay if DADT is repealed. Is the military able to provide separate sleeping quarters and separate showering rooms for both gays and str8's? If not, then the repealing of DADT should wait until they are able to provide separate sleeping quarters. You certainly can't mix gays and str8's in the same sleeping quarters any more than you would want men and women sleeping in the same room together. How are gay men ever going to control themselves when other men are undressing in front of them? You can't have gays who are attracted to men sleeping and showering and using the restroom with other men. We would never even think of having men and women sleeping in the same room as men, so why would we put gays in the same room as men and let gays use the same bathrooms with men? They will be giving bj's and fucking each other in the restrooms. This is sick!!!!

I have no problem with gays serving in the military, just as I have no problem with women serving in the military, but I do have a problem with having gays sleeping in the same room with other men who are not gay. We don't put men and women in the same restroom, sleeping room or shower room together, so why would we put gays and str8s in the same restroom, sleeping room, or shower room together when the gays will get sexually get turned on by other men, just as the women do?

I think we should require this judge to have to sleep and undress and shower in a room with men and then she will get a taste of her own medicine. lol It's easy for her to repeal DADT because she isn't the one who has to sleep, undress or shower in a room with gay men. Did she even consult with the str8 men whether they would be comfortable with such a situation? I think many people are really failing to see what the main problem is with repealing DADT. It has nothing to do with whether gay men can serve well in the military. Yes they can, just as women can serve well in the military. But we don't put the women in the men's barracks or shower room and neither should we put gay men in the same barracks or shower room with other men. You are just asking for trouble, if you do. Imagine how uncomfortable it would be for a str8 man to be in the same barracks, bathroom, or shower room with a homosexual. That's the problem there would be with repealing DADT and if the government does repeal it, they are going to find a lot of the str8 servicemen requesting to be moved to a barracks with no gay men in it because they are uncomfortable undressing and showering in a room with a gay man looking at their nudity in a lustful way. And we certainly can understand why they would be uncomfortable just as much as they would be uncomfortable undressing and showering with women in the room with them.
This is why DADT should not be repealed, unless the military has separate housing and shower facilities for the men who are open gays.

"This policy will end and it will end on my watch!"~ President Obama.

Well, we can only hope your watch is a short one ending in 2012, Mr. President. Nobama '12!

Now, at a time when our military is as heavily engaged as it has been for more than forty years, at a time when individual troops are ordered to repeated deployments to the war zones, now in a time of military uncertainty and maximum commitment, is the wrong time for our politicians to advocate for a social-engineering experiment by endorsing an end to the current don't ask, don't tell

Neither the president nor an overwhelming preponderance of those in Congress have had the courage to serve a single day in our country's military. For them now to pander to a
vocal minority seeking a liberal interpretation of society's rules is disturbing and quite revealing as to the total lack of any consideration of the residual
effects of their actions. To politicize our military in a time of war is as incredibly contemptible as it is indisputably ignorant of the military as an institution, a separate and distinct body tasked with the most crucial tasks of defending our nation in a time of war.

To our politicians I say: Tinker with the civilian world if you must; do not attempt to impose your liberal agenda on America's military for the purpose of vote gathering.

Are there gays in our military? Certainly and always has been. "Don't ask, don't tell!"

You can read my complete article here:


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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