The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which forces gay, lesbian and trans-gender members of the military to hide their personal lives or face expulsion from the service, will continue being enforced until mid-2011 thanks to a Monday ruling by an appeals court in San Francisco.
The extension, granted by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, follows a federal court’s decision that ruled the policy unconstitutional, temporarily halting its enforcement. On a request by the Obama administration, the appeals court granted a temporary stay, which it extended on Monday, allowing the policy’s continuance until it can fully consider the appeal.
That won’t happen until at least spring of next year, according to The San Francisco Chronicle‘s Bob Egelko.
Since the law was passed in 1993 by the Clinton administration, over 13,500 solders have been expelled from the armed forces after details of their sexuality came to light. Critics say this has caused shortages of soldiers skilled in specialized fields and exacerbated a general troop shortage for in all branches of the military.
Supporters of the “Don’t Ask” policy say that troop morale would decline if gays and lesbians were allowed to serve openly, not forced to sometimes take numerous steps to obscure their personal lives from military officials.
In spite of the morale theory, military officials said a recent survey of soldiers and military families showed that most had no problem with allowing fellow Americans to serve openly.
The Pentagon did not say how many soldiers completed the survey or how they answered, but the detailed breakdown is expected to end up on Obama’s desk next month, according to The Washington Post.
In spite of President Obama’s support for repealing the law, his administration continues to defend it in court. The president has said he’d like to change the law through Congress.
He could stop expulsions of gay and lesbian service members through an executive order, but has not chosen to do so.
With the US House projected to flip to a Republican majority after tomorrow’s elections, it seems that for gay rights campaigners the only way forward now is for Congress to pass the repeal amid their post-election lame duck session.
However, with a block of “must-pass” legislation like unemployment benefits extensions, Medicare reimbursements, energy standards, cybersecurity and more, the quick passage of a defense authorization bill containing the “Don’t Ask” repeal appears difficult, if not highly unlikely.