Court throws out Log Cabin’s DADT challenge

Now that “don’t ask, don’t tell” has been repealed, a federal appeals court today declared moot Log Cabin Republicans’ lawsuit challenging the policy — and vacated a district judge’s ruling that said DADT was unconstitutional.

Log Cabin has argued that having the case declared moot could open the door for a future administration to reinstate DADT, which was repealed effective Sept. 20.. And the group continues to blame President Barack Obama for the Justice Department’s decision to litigate the case.

“Log Cabin Republicans v. United States said more than ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ should be repealed — it stood for the fundamental constitutional rights of servicemembers not to be discriminated against by the nation they serve,” LCR Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper (pictured) said in a statement responding to today’s ruling. “President Obama should be ashamed that he is responsible for undoing that important precedent.”

Dan Woods, an attorney for Log Cabin Republicans, said the group plans to appeal today’s decision, which came from a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

“We are, of course, disappointed by today’s ruling but we will continue to fight on for the constitutional rights of all people impacted by Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Woods said. “This is an important issue for all Americans and we anticipate seeking re-hearing before the full Ninth Circuit.”

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: House taps former Bush SG to defend DOMA; gay blog Queerty shuts down

Paul Clement

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. House Republicans tapped former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, who served for three years during the Bush administration, to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court. And Speaker John Boehner wants to divert money from the Justice Department to pay Clement, a partner at Atlanta-based King & Spalding whose services won’t come cheap (he reportedly earns more than $5 million a year). Clement, representing the House’s Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, has already filed a motion to intervene in one of the cases challenging the constitutionality of DOMA.

2. The gay blog Queerty has shut down. We’ll miss Queerty’s snarky headlines and irreverent prose as much as anyone, but we won’t miss the blog stealing our original content without crediting us.

3. A bill that would bar transgender people from marrying people of the opposite sex is again on the Texas Senate’s intent calendar for today. That means if you haven’t already contacted Senate Democrats and asked them to vote against SB 723, you should do so now (contact info  is here). Meanwhile, LGBT advocates will again be speaking during today’s meeting of the Dallas County Commissioners Court to call on the court to add gender identity to the county’s nondiscrimination policy. We’re headed downtown and will have a report later.

—  John Wright

Obama administration says it will no longer defend DOMA, calls law unconstitutional

President Barack Obama

LGBT advocates call decision historic, monumental

LISA KEEN | Keen News Service

The Obama administration made a blockbuster announcement Wednesday, Feb. 23, saying it has concluded that one part of the Defense of Marriage Act will not be able to pass constitutional muster in the 2nd Circuit and that DOJ would not defend that part of the law in two pending cases in that circuit.

It was a dramatic, unexpected, and significant move by the Obama administration and one that could trigger maneuvers by DOMA supporters to appoint an intervenor to defend the law. But beyond the eventual legal consequences of the announcement, the political impact was characterized by most LGBT leaders as historic and monumental.

“This is a monumental turning point in the history of the quest for equality for lesbian, gay and bisexual people,” said Jon Davidson, legal director for Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.

NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell put it even more strongly.

“The President’s leadership on this issue has forever changed the landscape for LGBT people in this country,” said Kendell. “For the first time, the President and the Department of Justice have recognized that laws that harm same-sex couples cannot be justified. This is the beginning of the end, not just for the mean-spirited and indefensible Defense of Marriage Act, but for the entire panoply of laws that discriminate against same-sex couples.”

Attorney General Eric Holder announced Wednesday that the Department of Justice would not defend the constitutionality of Section 3 of DOMA in two of the four cases where that section of the law is currently under challenge. Those two cases are Pedersen v. OPM, filed by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, and Windsor v. United States, filed by the ACLU.

Two other cases — in the 1st Circuit — also challenge Section 3, which prohibits federal recognition of any same-sex marriage, as does a more narrow case, Golinski v. OPM, in the 9th Circuit, at the district court level.

DOMA Section 2, which enables states to ignore valid marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples from other states, has not yet been challenged in court and Holder made no reference to it.

Since entering the White House, President Obama has said that DOMA should be repealed, but his administration continued to defend the law, saying, through various spokespersons, that Obama was concerned about setting a precedent that would make it easier for some future administration to pick and choose which laws it would defend.

Last summer, asked whether there isn’t a difference between enforcing existing laws and defending them in court, his Domestic Policy chief, Melody Barnes, said the president believed DOMA and “don’t ask, don’t tell” to be “discriminatory” but that he had not yet “made an argument” concerning their constitutionality.

“[W]e believe we have an obligation to defend the law if Congress had a rational basis for passing the law,” said Barnes.

In his announcement Wednesday, Attorney General Holder noted that the administration would still defend DOMA Section 3 in the two 1st Circuit cases because the 1st Circuit has ruled that rational basis is sufficient justification for treating people differently based on their sexual orientation. (He was apparently referring to the unsuccessful class action case challenging DADT). But Holder also noted that DOJ attorneys would argue that the court should, instead, apply a stricter test for DOMA.

Lambda Marriage Project Director Jenny Pizer said the 1st Circuit would make its own decision about whether to adopt Holder’s view.

“Any court is going to make its own determination about what the law requires,” said Pizer. “The government is usually given particular credence, but it is always court’s job to decide what the law requires.” But Pizer noted that the increasing volume of voices declaring the injustice of DOMA can have an influence, particularly given that the arguments made in support of DOMA “are not even coherent.”

It is possible — just as happened in California — that some other entity might attempt to mount its own defense of DOMA in the pending cases. Last October, U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, filed a motion in the two 1st Circuit cases, seeking to be named intervenor-defendant. Smith, aided by the right-wing Alliance Defense Fund, said at the time that the Justice Department was providing “no defense at all” for DOMA. He withdrew his motion a few weeks later, without comment.

Lambda’s Pizer said she thinks it is “very likely” someone will ask the 1st Circuit for permission to serve as a defendant-intervenor in the DOMA cases. And she noted Congress has the authority to appoint its own counsel to defend the law. Such was the development in the California same-sex marriage case, Perry v. Schwarzenegger. The federal district court allowed the group that sought passage of Proposition 8, Yes on 8, to defend the law at trial. The 9th Circuit recently asked the California Supreme Court to determine whether any state law gives Yes on 8 the authority to appeal that district court decision in the federal appeals court.

A three-judge panel of the First Circuit is currently receiving written briefs from both sides in the DOMA cases and, presumably, will now receive a written brief from DOJ arguing that DOMA Section 3 should meet a heightened standard of review.

NCLR’s Minter said he believes the law “can’t survive” that standard.

Mary Bonauto, lead attorney on the DOMA cases for GLAD, could not be reached for comment. But ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU, which has filed one of the 2nd Circuit cases, praised President Obama doing doing “the right thing.” Romero said President Obama’s action has “just propelled gay rights into the 21st century, where it belongs. Our government finally recognizes what we knew 14 years ago — that the so-called ‘Defense of Marriage Act’ is a gross violation of the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection before the law. DOMA betrays core American values of fairness, justice and dignity for all, and has no place in America.”

© 2011 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

—  John Wright

Is Obama the ‘MLK for the gays’?

As you’ve probably heard, the Justice Department filed another brief in support of the Defense of Marriage Act on Thursday, prompting criticism from gay rights advocates who say the Obama administration should allow the law to be struck down instead of defending it. Indeed, less than a month after signing a bill to repeal  “don’t ask, don’t tell,” Obama again finds himself under fire from the LGBT community. With the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday coming Monday, Equality Matters President Richard Socarides drew this analogy in The Huffington Post:

“The repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ was a breathtaking accomplishment. President Obama will get credit. But from this point forward he has a choice. If he builds on it, he could become the MLK for the gays. But if he continues to allow the Justice Department to file these briefs opposing full equality, he will squander an historic opportunity.”

—  John Wright

Log Cabin urges court to sustain DADT case

Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — A gay rights group is asking a federal appeals court in California to keep considering whether a trial judge properly struck down the U.S. military’s ban on gays serving openly in the military.

Lawyers for Log Cabin Republicans filed a brief Monday, Jan. 10 arguing that because the ban has not been lifted, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals needs to maintain its schedule in the government’s challenge to the lower court’s ruling.

It came in response to a Justice Department motion seeking to suspend the case for at least three months. The department faces a Jan. 24 deadline for submitting opening arguments.

Government lawyers say putting the appeal on hold would allow the Pentagon to focus on training troops and other tasks necessary for completing the repeal of the ban.

Congress has agreed to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

—  John Wright

DOJ appeals injunction halting DADT

Advocates warn LGBT servicemembers not to come out until questions are settled

From Staff and Wire Reports

The U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday, Oct. 14 asked a federal district judge to allow the military to continue enforcing “don’t ask, don’t tell” pending the government’s appeal of her ruling declaring the policy unconstitutional.

The request came two days after U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips issued an injunction Tuesday, Oct. 12 ordering the Department of Defense to halt enforcement of DADT worldwide.

The DOJ, which is defending the 17-year-old ban on open service, on Thursday asked Phillips to stay the injunction pending its appeal of her September ruling.

“As the President has stated previously, the Administration does not support the DADT statute as a matter of policy and strongly supports its repeal,” the justice department told Phillips. “However, the Department of Justice has long followed the practice of defending federal statutes as long as reasonable arguments can be made in support of their constitutionality, even if the Administration disagrees with a particular statute as a policy matter, as it does here.”

If Phillips denies the request for a stay of the injunction, the DOJ can request an emergency stay from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which will hear any appeal.

The DOJ has 60 days from the time of Phillips’ injunction to appeal her ruling.
Representatives from Log Cabin Republicans, which brought the lawsuit, and other groups advocating for DADT repeal warned LGBT servicemembers against coming out in the wake of Tuesday’s injunction.

Christian Berle, deputy executive director for Log Cabin Republicans issued a statement Thursday afternoon saying his organization had “expected that the Obama administration would continue to pull out all the stops to defend ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’” But, Berle pledged, “Log Cabin Republicans will continue to advocate on behalf of the American servicemembers who everyday sacrifice in defense of our nation and our Constitution.  If this stay is granted, justice will be delayed, but it will not be denied.”

Berle said Log Cabin Republicans are urging Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to “do what it takes” to repeal DADT when Congress reconvenes after the midterm elections in November.

“If Sen. Reid treats the minority party fairly, the votes will be there to end ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ once and for all,” Berle said.

Although the House of Representatives voted this summer to repeal the policy, as an amendment to a Department of Defense spending bill, the measure died in the Senate last month when supporters could not get enough votes to end a Republican filibuster.

Republicans launched their filibuster in protest after Reid added an amendment to the bill dealing with immigration and refused to allow Republicans to add amendments from the Senate floor.

Even though Phillips’ injunction barring enforcement of DADT remains in force, at least for the time being, David Guy-Gainer of Forest Hills, a board member for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said his group is urging closeted servicemembers to act with caution.

“If you look at it in terms of gay marriage in California, you remember that sliver of time [between the Supreme Court ruling overturning the state’s ban on gay marriage] and the passage of Proposition 8 [which amended the Constitution], there were couples who were legally married in California. And even after Prop 8 passed, those marriages held up. They are still legal,” Guy-Gainer said.

“There is a chance there could be a window like that created in this case,” he continued. “But it’s too risky. If you have a gay servicemember who stands up while this injunction is in force and tells his commander, ‘Hey, I’m gay,’ and then the injunction is lifted, well the commander isn’t going to just forget that.

“Despite the injunction, we can’t confirm that they have actually stopped discharges, so it’s just too risky to actually come out,” Guy-Gainer said.

Rob Schlein, president of Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas, criticized the White House for appealing the injunction.

“I am very happy that the judge followed through on her decision and issued the injunction. But I think it is very sad that our ‘fierce advocate,’ President Obama, has filed an appeal, which is contradictory to his claims that he wants the law repealed,” Schlein said.

Rich Hisey, a former M.P. in the U.S. Army who is also a member of Log Cabin Dallas, said he feels “really good, very pleased” about Phillips’ ruling in the case and her injunction against DADT, despite the appeal.

“I think this is a big victory for Log Cabin Republicans, and a big victory for the gay community as a whole,” Hisey said. “It’s been a long, long road. But we’re finally getting close to the end.”

Still, Hisey said, he, too, warns gay and lesbian servicemembers to be “very, very cautious right now.”

“I served three years in the Army, in the military police, back in the 1980s. That was a very different time, and I was closeted the whole time I was in the military. Things are different now, but I think if I were in the military now, I would stay in the closet for a while longer at least. I think everything is still up in the air, and it is still too risky to come out,” Hisey said.

Hisey also echoed Schlein’s frustration with Democrats’ failure to repeal DADT, despite their pledges to do so.

“Obama has not shown any leadership, and he still continues to push the DOJ to appeal this ruling,” Hisey said.

“My real frustration is with the Democrats in the Senate. We had a golden opportunity last month to repeal DADT, but Harry Reid played politics with it and added the Dream Act to the bill, even though he knew it wouldn’t pass. That really bothers me.”

Senior White House officials have said the president wants to end DADT, but believes the change should come through Congress and not through the courts.

Shortly after the appeal was filed Thursday, President Obama sent out a notice on Twitter, reiterating his opposition to DADT and renewing his pledge to end the policy.

“Anybody who wants to serve in our armed forces and make sacrifices on our behalf should be able to,” the president Tweeted. “DADT will end & it will end on my watch.”

The bill passed by the House calls for repeal of DADT, but only after the completion of a Pentagon study that includes a survey on how servicemembers and their family members feel about repealing the policy. That study is due Dec. 1.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 15, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

DOJ responds to DADT ruling; Gibbs says filing doesn’t diminish Obama’s commitment to repeal

Lawyers with the Justice Department on Thursday night, Sept. 23,  asked U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips not to grant an immediate injunction ordering that the military stop enforcing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law/policy that prohibits gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military. The filing came 14 days after Judge Phillips ruled that DADT is unconstitutional and should be immediately ended. ( You can read ABC News’ report here.)

The filing Thursday by DOJ lawyers asked for a “reasonable” amount of time to consider an injunction.

The fact that the government continues to defend the policy, despite President Barack Obama’s clearly and repeatedly stated opposition to DADT and his pledge to end it left Log Cabin Republicans, lead plaintiff in the lawsuit in question, more than a little angry.

R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans

LCR Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper issued this statement Friday morning, Sept. 24: “We are deeply disappointed with the administration’s decision. Yet again, the Obama administration has failed to live up to its campaign promise to repeal this unconstitutional law for the servicemembers of this country.”

In the same press release that included Cooper’s statement, Dan Woods, the attorney with White and Case who is representing Log Cabin in the trial, had this to say: “The Justice Department’s objections fail to recognize the implications of the government’s defeat at trial. It is as if the South announced that it won the Civil War. The objections also fail to mention that the court has previously denied the government’s requests for a stay on three prior occasions and nothing has changed to suggest that a stay is now appropriate; if anything, the Senate vote this week shows that the court was correct in denying the prior requests for a stay. But what is most troubling is that the government’s request for a stay ignores the harm that ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ causes to current and potential members of our Armed Forces. That is the saddest, most disappointing and, in light of the president’s position, most hypocritical part of the objections.”

The Senate vote to which Woods referred was the one on Tuesday, Sept. 21, in which every Senate Republican and three Senate Democrats voted against the motion for cloture, which would have ended a Republican filibuster and forced a final vote on the Department of Defense funding bill that included an amendment repealing DADT. That bill had already passed the House. One of the Democrats who voted against the motion was Majority Leader Harry Reid, who had made the motion. He voted against it in a procedural maneuver so that he would be able to bring it up again later.

Moderate Republicans in the Senate who might otherwise have voted with the Democrats on that motion voted against it because Reid had also included an amendment dealing with immigration — the Dream Act — and had refused to allow Republicans to offer any amendments to the DOD spending measure.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on Thursday defended the DOJ’s filing, saying that it was the department’s job to defend “acts of Congress” when they are challenged. But Gates insisted the filing “in no way diminished the president’s commitment to achieve a legislative repeal of DADT — indeed, it clearly shows why Congress must act to end this misguided policy.”

Gates added: “The president was disappointed this week when a majority of the Senate was willing to proceed with the National Defense Authorization Act, but political posturing created a 60 vote threshold. The president spoke out against DADT in his first State of the Union address, and the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have both testified in support of repeal. And the Department of Defense continues to work on a plan on how to implement repeal. This president, along with his administration, will continue to work will continue to work with the Senate leadership to achieve a legislative repeal of DADT as outlined in the NDAA this fall.”

UPDATE: Also Friday, a group of 69 progressive members of the House sent a letter to Obama asking that him not to appeal Phillips’ decision. Thursday’s filing was not technically an appeal, but experts say it was a strong indication that the DOJ does plan to appeal. For more on the letter, go here.

—  admin

DOMA ruling suspended pending appeal

Associated Press

BOSTON — A ruling by a judge who found a federal law defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman unconstitutional will be suspended for 60 days while the U.S. Department of Justice decides whether it will appeal the decision.

U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro ruled in July that the federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.

An amended judgment in the case was filed in court Wednesday. The Justice Department now has 60 days to decide if it will appeal the decision to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston.

Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, the Boston-based group that filed the legal challenge, said it did not oppose the government’s request for a stay pending any appeal.

—  John Wright