Obama Administration files to keep gay military ban in place
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – The Obama administration asked a federal appeals court on Wednesday to let the Pentagon reinstate its ban on openly gay men and women serving in the military while it appeals a lower-court ruling declaring the policy unconstitutional.
The request for an emergency stay was filed with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco even as some gay veterans expelled under the so-called “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy have sought to re-enlist in a test of the lower-court ruling.
U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips in Riverside, California, east of Los Angeles, ruled in September that the military’s 17-year-old policy infringes on the constitutional free-speech and due-process rights of gay men and women in uniform.
She put that opinion into effect on October 12 with a blanket injunction requiring the military to stop enforcing the ban and halt pending investigations and discharges stemming from it.
On Monday, Phillips denied the administration’s request to set aside her injunction, and permit the Pentagon to keep the ban in effect, while the appeals process runs its course.
The Defense Department said on Tuesday it has directed its recruiters for the first time to start accepting applications from enlistees who acknowledge they are gay.
Still, the Pentagon has warned that gay service members who reveal their sexual orientation in the midst of the continued legal wrangling run the risk of facing expulsion later if Phillips’ ruling were reversed.
President Barack Obama has insisted he stands by his 2008 campaign pledge to end “don’t ask, don’t tell,” but his administration had urged the judge to allow more time for a political remedy to the issue rather than a court-imposed one.
The Pentagon also has argued that an abrupt change in the ban on openly gay men and women in the armed forces, enacted into law under President Bill Clinton, would hamper the military.
(Additional reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky in Washington, Editing by Eric Beech)