The Impact of Judge's Order to End 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

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On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips ordered the military to stop enforcing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy regarding gays in the military. The suit was brought by a veteran and executive director of Servicemembers United and the conservative gay group Log Cabin Republicans. The ruling leaves the Obama administration, as the voice of the federal government in this matter, with the awkward choice of appealing the decision or letting it stand. In January, Obama pledged to end "don't ask, don't tell" by the end of 2010.

  • Temporary  "The Ninth Circuit will likely stay the effect of this order and, if it does not, the Supreme Court will do so," writes Dale Carpenter at The Volokh Conspiracy.
  • 'The DOJ Has 60 Days to Appeal,' notes Daniel Foster at National Review. "Barring that, this effectively ends the policy."
  • 'Decision Time for The One,' writes Hot Air's Allahpundit: "Does he appeal or not? If he decides not to, he'll undercut Gates's insistence that no action should be taken on the policy until the Pentagon completes its review of the effects on readiness." But it he does appeal the liberal base will be enraged, and they're needed at the polls in November. "The obvious solution is to punt and avoid a decision until after the election, but I'm not sure liberals will let him get away with that." As a final point, he notes that the judge may have "let [Republicans] off the hook," since they might have had to deal with DADT upon grabbing a majority--while their base is opposed to changing the policy, public opinion as a whole supports the switch.
  • A Gift to Obama  "Given the injunction's sweeping scope," writes Jason Mazzone at Balkinization, (the order is effective immediately and applied to U.S. military worldwide) "the Administration can now play both sides of the issue. It can maintain, plausibly, that it is opposed to DADT while asserting also that wholesale repeal by the stroke of a judge's pen is too disruptive."
  • Not So Much, Actually  "What damnable luck for the Democrats to have this thrown at them 2 weeks before the election!" exclaims law professor Ann Althouse. "It's such a bad issue for Obama. He hasn't done what he promised, and he's fought against constitutional rights that he ought to be actively pursuing, whether he'd made promises or not."
  • 'Great Presidents Rise to the Occasion'  To John Aravosis at Americablog, this is a big test of Obama's mettle:
Will President Obama obey the rule of law, obey a federal judge, obey his conscience and his own political promises? Will he finally take this opportunity, dropped in his lap like manna from heaven, to end DADT as he promised repeatedly? Or will "lawyer Obama" find some absurdly convoluted, heartless, and esoteric legal reason to oppose the judge, appeal the ruling, to yet again break yet another political promise, and give DADT the chance to live yet another day?
  • It Would Be Nicer If Congress Acted, muses Steve Benen. "Glad as I am to hear of court orders like this one, I'd be even more satisfied if they were rendered moot by congressional approval of scrapping the DADT policy altogether." But Senate Republicans unanimously rejected this last month.
  • A Reminder of the Odd Circumstances  "For the record," writes Mother Jones's Adam Weinstein, "Phillips was ruling on a motion filed not by Democrats, or the Obama administration, but by the Log Cabin Republicans, a conservative gay group that's received its share of opprobrium both from fellow GOPers and fellow LGTBs."

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