Gay Republican Group Continues to Push Federal ’Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Case
While "don’t ask, don’t tell" may have officially ended last week, Log Cabin Republicans aren’t completely done fighting the policy that barred gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military.
The gay Republican group wants the Department of Justice to uphold a Sept. 2010 ruling in their lawsuit challenging DADT in which a federal judge in Riverside found the policy unconstitutional.
"It has a lasting effect on mitigating any future statutes," R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, told EDGE during a DADT repeal party at a Washington, D.C., nightclub on Sept. 19.
Some may see the group’s lawsuit as no longer relevant-and the DOJ does. Log Cabin Republicans say the repeal, while a monumental victory, still doesn’t define the constitutional rights of LGBT service members.
The organization filed suit against DADT in 2004. U.S. Circuit Court Judge Virginia Phillips ruled in their favor last September, issuing an injunction against DADT that jumpstarted the repeal process.
Roughly two weeks after Phillips issued her ruling, the U.S. Senate voted against a measure that would have allowed debate on the DADT repeal bill to begin. President Barack Obama signed the bill into law in late December after the U.S. Senate approved the repeal measure by a 65-31 measure.
With the repeal of DADT official, the DOJ wants to declare the lawsuit moot.
"If the ruling is either overturned, declared moot or vacated, then the established constitutional rights enumerated by Judge Phillips would no longer exist," said Log Cabin Republicans spokesman Christian Berle. "The repeal act, in a capacity, strikes the DADT policy from the U.S. code, but what it does not do, is establish non-discrimination policies or any right for service members to protect them from discrimination based on their sexual orientation."
In spite of the end of the Clinton-era law, gay and lesbian servicemembers continue to face a number of hurdles. These include the ability of discharged servicemembers to receive back pay, to re-enlist at their highest rank before they were forcibly discharged and a lack of benefits for partners of gay and lesbian soldiers before the federal Defense of Marriage Act does not acknowledge same-sex relationships. Most importantly, the end of DADT does not block a future Congress or president from re-instituting a ban on openly gay and lesbian servicemembers.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum sparked controversy during the Republican presidential debate in Orlando, Fla., on Thursday, Sept. 22, that he would reinstate DADT in response to a question from a gay soldier who is stationed in Iraq. Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich are among the other Republican presidential hopefuls who have said they would reinstitute the Clinton-era law if elected president.
"Aside from the ruling established in Log Cabin Republicans v. United States, there is nothing blocking the pentagon from discharging individuals because of their sexual orientation," said Berle. "There are enumerated policies, but those policies do not have the force of law or a judiciary mandate."
The DOJ filed a petition with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday, Sept. 20, to declare the Phillips’ decision moot. The Log Cabin Republicans already made their case against it before a three-judge panel in the court earlier this month, where the DOJ cast skepticism on the validity of their concerns.
There is no deadline for a decision to be made.