Appeals court halts enforcement of DADT, but gay servicemembers warned to remain cautious

A federal appeals court has halted enforcement of “don’t ask don’t tell,” effective immediately.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a unanimous order today lifting a stay it had placed on an injunction handed down last year by U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips, who declared the ban on open military service unconstitutional.

According to the appeals court’s order, DADT cannot be enforced unless and until the government gets a stay from either the 9th Circuit Court or the U.S. Supreme Court.

Congress voted to repeal DADT in December, but repeal has not yet been certified by the president, the defense secretary and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.

“Today’s decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is most welcomed,” Servicemembers Legal Defense Network Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis said in a statement. “It’s the hope of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network that this favorable ruling will not be challenged by the Defense Department. In fact, this whole matter could have been avoided had we had certification back in the spring. It’s time to get on with that important certification, end the DADT confusion for all service members, and put a final end to this misguided policy.”

Alexander Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United, warned that despite today’s order, gay servicemembers should remain cautious about revealing their sexual orientation. “The issue remains in a state of flux, although guarded optimism is certainly warranted,” Nicholson said in a statement.

Although the appeals court lifted its stay of the injunction, it has not ruled on the merits of the case, Log Cabin Republicans vs. The United States. The court set arguments for Aug. 29.

In its order, the appeals court cited the Obama administration’s position that it’s unconstitutional to discriminate against gays, which was laid out in a court brief last week.

To read the appeals court’s order, go here.

—  John Wright

Dan Woods, Alex Nicholson to speak at Log Cabin Republicans National Convention in Dallas

Log Cabin Dallas President Rob SchleinROB SCHLEIN | President, Log Cabin Republicans Dallas

Log Cabin Republicans are celebrating many accomplishments this year, but none so much as the defeat of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” From our victorious ruling in Log Cabin Republicans v. United States to securing dozens of GOP votes in Congress to repeal the policy, our members can be proud of the role Log Cabin is playing to end the ban on open service.

Join us in Dallas April 28-May 1 for an insider perspective on how it happened, and where we go from here.

The Log Cabin Republicans National Convention & Liberty Education Forum Symposium are known for bringing together an impressive slate of speakers — and 2011 promises to continue that proud legacy.

Dan Woods is a partner at White & Case and the lead attorney in Log Cabin Republicans v. United States. He will be speaking about the trial verdict which turned the tide in the fight to end DADT, and the ongoing fight at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. For his work on our case, Woods has been named 2010 Attorney of the Year by The Recorder, and is the recipient of the 2011 California Lawyer Attorney of the Year Award.

Alex Nicholson served as Log Cabin Republicans named plaintiff in the suit against DADT, and his testimony was critical to our success. Alex is also the executive director of Servicemembers United, one of the core advocacy groups whose tireless efforts won votes in Congress for repeal and whose work continues as we look ahead to implementation and life after the ban. Alex is a past winner of Log Cabin’s “Uncommon Courage” award and is always a favored speaker at our events.

Last but not least, Log Cabin Republicans own executive director, R. Clarke Cooper, will join the panel with his perspective both as Log Cabin’s lead lobbyist for legislative repeal, but also providing insight as a currently serving captain in the Army Reserve. Little known fact: Clarke was actually in uniform when Judge Virginia Phillips’ injunction against DADT went into effect. Join us in Dallas to hear the reactions of his fellow servicemembers to the verdict!

That’s just a small taste of what we have in store. Between now and April 28, Log Cabin Republicans national headquarters will be releasing more information about the 2011 Log Cabin Republicans National Convention & Liberty Education Forum Symposium — but don’t wait! The 2010 National Dinner sold out early, and you want to secure your place at what promises to be headline news in the fight for a stronger, more inclusive Republican Party.

*Important Note: a special student rate of $200 has been added to the registration page. Contact cberle@logcabin.org for any questions regarding eligibility.

Act now for Log Cabin Republicans special Convention rate of $149/night at the famed Hilton Anatole in Dallas. To take advantage of this rate, call 1-800-HILTONS and mention Log Cabin Republicans. For any questions, contact cberle@logcabin.org. See you in Dallas!

—  admin

Court refuses to suspend lawsuit challenging DADT

LISA LEFF  |  Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appeals court has denied the government’s request to suspend a lawsuit challenging the military’s ban on openly gay servicemembers.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco issued an order Friday, Jan. 28 requiring the Department of Justice to file papers by Feb. 25 arguing why the court should overturn a Southern California trial judge who declared the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy unconstitutional.

Government lawyers asked the 9th Circuit earlier this month to set aside the case because the Pentagon was moving quickly to satisfy the steps Congress outlined last month when it voted to allow the ban’s repeal. A Justice Department spokeswoman said it had no comment Saturday.

The appeals court did not explain in its order why it rejected the request. In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama said he expected to finalize the repeal and allow openly gay Americans to join the armed forces before the end of the year.

On Friday, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told reporters that the training of officers and troops the Pentagon has said is a predicate to full repeal would begin in February.

The Log Cabin Republicans, the gay political group whose lawsuit challenging “don’t ask, don’t tell” persuaded District Court Judge Virginia Phillips in September to enjoin the military from enforcing the policy, had opposed the government’s effort to put the case on hold.

R. Clarke Cooper, the group’s president, said Saturday that while he thinks the Pentagon’s efforts are sincere, the case should proceed as long as gay servicemembers still can be discharged.

“We said all along to the government we would drop our case if they would cease all discharges and remove all barriers to open service,” Cooper said.

Cooper, an Army reserve officer, said he knew of at least one service member facing a discharge hearing next month, even as the Pentagon moves forward with its training plan.

“We are not questioning the implementation process. We recognize the need for a deliberative process for implementing proper training materials and guidances for leadership,” he said. “But when you have a servicemember going before a discharge panel, this is kind of a ‘left hand-right hand’ thing that is happening.”

—  John Wright

Court allows military to continue enforcing DADT pending appeal

LISA LEFF  |  Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appeals court on Monday, Nov. 1 indefinitely extended its freeze on a judge’s order halting enforcement of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, heightening pressure on the Obama administration to persuade the U.S. Senate to repeal the law before a new Congress is sworn in.

A divided three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted the U.S. government’s request for a stay while it challenges the trial court’s ruling that the ban on openly gay service members is unconstitutional.

The same panel, composed of two judges appointed by President Ronald Reagan and one appointed by President Bill Clinton, on Oct. 20 imposed a temporary hold keeping “don’t ask, don’t tell” in place.

Monday’s decision means gay Americans who disclose their sexual orientations still can’t enlist in the armed forces and can be investigated and ultimately discharged if they already are serving.

“We continue to warn service members that it is unsafe to come out as long as this law remains on the books,” said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

In an eight-page order, two judges said they were persuaded by the Department of Justice’s argument that U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips’ worldwide injunction against the policy “will seriously disrupt ongoing and determined efforts by the Administration to devise an orderly change.”

“The public interest in enduring orderly change of this magnitude in the military — if that is what is to happen — strongly militates in favor of a stay,” Judges Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain and Stephen S. Trott wrote in their majority order. “Furthermore, if the administration is successful in persuading Congress to eliminate (the policy), this case and controversy will become moot.”

Another reason they gave for imposing the freeze was decisions by four other federal appeals courts that cast doubt on whether Phillips exceeded her authority and ignored existing legal precedents when she concluded gays could not serve in the military without having their First Amendment rights breached.

Judge William Fletcher entered a partial dissent, saying he would have preferred the panel had heard oral arguments before granting the stay. Fletcher said he thinks “don’t tell, don’t tell” should not be used to discharge any existing service members while the case was on appeal.

“Defendants would not be required during the pendency of the appeal to change their recruiting practices, to change their personnel manuals, or, subject only to the requirement that they not actually discharge anyone, otherwise to change their practices,” Fletcher said.

President Barack Obama repeatedly has said he opposes “don’t ask, don’t tell” but favors ending it legislatively instead of through the courts. Over the summer, he worked with Democrats to write a bill that would have lifted the ban, pending completion of a Defense Department review due Dec. 1. The legislation passed the House but was blocked in the Senate.

The president has pledged to push for another vote during Congress’ lame duck session after Tuesday’s elections.

“The president claims to want to see ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ ended. It is time that he stop talking and start working to make a real difference for gay and lesbian Americans by pushing for repeal when Congress returns,” said R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, the gay rights group that sued to overturn “don’t ask, don’t tell” in Phillips’ court,

The court ordered the government to submit its brief in its broader appeal by Jan. 24 and gave Log Cabin Republicans until Feb. 22 to reply. It did not schedule oral arguments in the case.

“For the reasons stated in the government’s submission to the appellate court, we believe the stay is appropriate,” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.

—  John Wright

BREAKING: Appeals court grants stay of DADT ruling, making policy enforceable again

John Wright  |  Online Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

“Don’t ask don’t tell” likely will soon go back into effect, after a federal appeals court granted a temporary stay Wednesday of a district judge’s previous order halting enforcement of the policy.

The U.S. Department of Justice requested an emergency stay of the order from District Judge Virginia Phillips, who ruled in September that the policy is unconstitutional, in a lawsuit brought by Log Cabin Republicans. Phillips issued an order halting enforcement of the policy last week, and denied the government’s request for an emergency stay on Tuesday. However, the DOJ then requested an emergency stay from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which will hear the government’s appeal of Phillips’ ruling.

Wednesday’s temporary stay, issued by a three-judge panel of the appeals court, means the ban on open service is legally enforceable again. The temporary stay will remain in effect until sometime after Oct. 25, when the Ninth Circuit court decides whether to leave it in place pending the appeal.

“This interim temporary stay means that ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is once again on the books, and is likely to be enforced by the Defense Department,” said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. “Gay and lesbian service members deserve better treatment than they are getting with this ruling. We now must look to the Senate next month in the lame duck session to bring about the swift certainty needed here and to repeal this unjust law that serves no useful purpose.”

It’s unclear how Wednesday’s stay will affect gays and lesbians who may have enlisted during the eight days since Phillips’ injunction when the policy was unenforceable.

“The revival of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law is a sad day for all Americans who want the best and brightest service members defending our country,” said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign. “Today’s decision only furthers our resolve to send this law to the dustbin of history and also draws a spotlight on the administration to make good on their pledge to end these discharges that damage our national security.”

Alex Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United, said he hopes the appeals court will opt not to extend the stay during the appeal, which will take at least several months.

“While we are obviously disappointed that the injunction was temporarily stayed, we hope that the Ninth Circuit will recognize the inherent contradiction in the government’s arguments for a longer stay in light of eight full days of non-enforcement with no ‘enormous consequences,” Nicholson said. “An objective look at the evidence before the court clearly indicates that ending ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ would not harm military readiness, but would rather enhance it.”

GetEQUAL announced that it will be protesting Thursday when President Barack Obama visits Seattle.

“This temporary stay, sought by President Obama’s Department of Justice, bring the military’s discriminatory ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law back from the dead,” said Robin McGehee, co-founder and director of GetEQUAL. “It is a travesty that after numerous attempts, President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder will go down in history as the Administration that breathed life back into ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ The lives and careers of openly gay and lesbian servicemembers are now back in the crosshairs of our government and a renewed commitment to discrimination falls squarely in the hands of this White House.”

—  John Wright

BREAKING: Government seeks emergency stay of ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ ruling from appeals court

The U.S. Department of Justice earlier today asked a federal appeals court for an emergency stay of a district judge’s order halting enforcement of “don’t ask don’t tell,” Politico reports.

DOJ attorneys have asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to rule on the request by tonight.

In other words, if you’re gay and you want to enlist in the military, we’d suggest you hurry up and do it.

Here’s the full text of the emergency stay request:

PPM143_101020_dadt_stay

—  John Wright

BREAKING: Judge denies government’s request to resume enforcement of ‘don’t ask don’t tell’

As expected, a federal district judge in California on Tuesday denied the government’s request to delay her injunction from last week halting the military’s enforcement of “don’t ask don’t tell.”

The Associated Press reports:

U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips issued her ruling Tuesday after saying the government had not proven that her order would harm troops or impede efforts to implement new military regulations to deal with openly gay troops.

Justice Department officials say the Obama administration will appeal to the appellate court in San Francisco.

The military has promised to abide by her order as long as it remains in place.

Phillips declared the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy unconstitutional Sept. 9. Under the 1993 law, the military cannot inquire into service members’ sexual orientation and punish them for it as long as they keep it to themselves.

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, issued the following statement in response to Phillips decision Tuesday to deny the government’s request:

“By the judge keeping the injunction in place, lesbian and gay service members are protected another day, but the uncertainty has not gone away. The Department of Justice will immediately ask the 9th Circuit to stay the injunction. We’re talking about the careers of patriots, people who are on the frontlines serving our country – some of whom are highly decorated – and the court needs to keep the injunction in place. As the DOJ fights to keep this unconstitutional and oppressive law, we are monitoring active-duty clients’ cases and fielding calls every day to our hotline. During this interim period of uncertainty, service members must not come out. Our service members need finality. Given the uncertainty in the courts, we urge the Senate to act swiftly next month on repeal when they return to Washington.”

Below is the full text of Phillips’ ruling:

LCR v USA – ORDER Emergency Stay Denied

—  John Wright

Gay active-duty Marine from North Texas: ‘I think it’s still a little too risky’ to come out

A gay active-duty Marine from North Texas said this week’s injunction ordering the military to stop enforcing “don’t ask don’t tell” was “a good start.”

But the Marine, whose name is being withheld to protect him from being outed under the policy, says he won’t be satisfied until the 17-year-old ban on open service is fully and finally repealed.

In a message to Instant Tea on Saturday, the Marine said although his commanders have reportedly been notified of the injunction, there hasn’t been any announcement at his level.

“I haven’t came out to anyone new yet,” said the Marine, who is stationed overseas. “I think it’s still a little too risky.”

U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips issued the injunction on Tuesday, Oct. 12. Two days later, the Obama administration asked Phillips to stay the injunction pending its appeal of her September ruling declaring the policy unconstitutional. But the judge has yet to rule on the administration’s request.

“I’m really disappointed in the president,” the gay Marine said. “I think he needs to make good on his campaign promises and repeal this law.”

To read our previous story on the Marine, go here.

—  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

BREAKING: Government to request stay of injunction halting enfocement of DADT

The U.S. Department of Justice was expected to ask a federal judge on Thursday afternoon to allow the military to continue enforcing “don’t ask don’t tell” pending the government’s appeal of a September ruling declaring the policy unconstitutional.

U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips issued an injunction Tuesday, Oct. 12 ordering the Department of Defense to halt enforcement of DADT worldwide. In September, Phillips ruled that DADT violates servicemembers’ constitutional rights to free speech and due process.

The DOJ plans to appeal Phillips’ ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and on Thursday government lawyers were expected to request a stay of the injunction pending the appeal, according to The Advocate. The appeal must be filed within 60 days.

If Phillips doesn’t grant their request for a stay, DOJ attorneys likely will ask for an emergency stay from the appeals court.

—  John Wright