Barack Obama | Don't Ask, Don't Tell | Human Rights Campaign | Joe Solmonese | Military | News | Richard Socarides

HRC Calls on Obama Over DOJ Brief Defending 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

In reaction to a brief filed today in a case brought by the Log Cabin Republicans in 2004 (the DOJ asked for summary judgment in order to throw the case out, and in the process mounted a full defense of DADT) the Human Rights Campaign for the first time has exerted some pressure on President Obama to act on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and fulfill the promise he made in the State of the Union Speech.

Dadt  The question is, is it too little pressure, too late?

HRC's statement from Joe Solmonese this afternoon:

“We were proud when the President stood before the American people and declared in his State of the Union that it is time to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ If he’s going to uphold that commitment, however, he must ensure that his Administration doesn’t work against it. The time for repeal is this year, and the time for his leadership is now.

“Over the last several years, I have met countless veterans who have sacrificed in the name of freedom, but in doing so were unfairly forced to sacrifice their integrity by hiding who they are. They love this country, have put their lives on the line to defend it, and serve just as courageously as all our men and women in uniform. Yet, they are forced to serve under the discriminatory DADT law, or to not serve at all.

“While these veterans – and so many Americans in support of them – are fighting alongside our President and many Congressional leaders to achieve repeal, today we took a step backward when the Department of Justice filed a brief in defense of the law. The brief relies on arguments that were debunked and discredited in 1993, and even more so now. When military leaders – including Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen, General Collin Powell and Vice President Cheney – have the courage to stand up and say it is time to throw out the discriminatory policies of the past, it is also time for this Administration to show leadership, move the debate forward, and work with Congress to get repeal done.

“This year presents an unprecedented opportunity to repeal the law, and to finally recognize that all brave men and women in uniform who put their lives on the line for this country deserve to serve openly. While the Pentagon undertakes its review of how to implement repeal, Congress can and must move forward in repealing DADT in the same bill that put it into law more than 17 years ago – the defense authorization act. And the President can and must provide the leadership necessary to get the law passed this year.”

IMHO this pressure should have started when the first inklings that there was confusion on how the repeal would proceed began. Obama said "this year" in his State of the Union address. Shortly thereafter (1/30) we began to hear whisperings of a "several year process" from the DoD. Then (2/02) it was a "yearlong planning effort". Soon (2/04) Pelosi was saying that the House had already "done a heavy lift" and that DADT might not be on the timeline.

Where was HRC?

Then (2/14) Pentagon sources were saying it was probably years away. The Palm Center (2/17) was warning DADT was in "grave peril". Barney Frank (2/18) was calling the process "muddled".

Still, HRC kept (and has until today) insisting there was a "clear path" to repeal.

This statement today is good. Maybe it took a couple soldiers getting chained to the White House fence and arrested to get it out of them, but it's certainly a welcome step. More, please.

Americablog has done an excellent job parsing the content of the brief. Read their first look at it here

 They got some more analysis from former LGBT liaison to Clinton, attorney Richard Socarides, specifically regarding a statement from DOJ spokesman Tracy Schmaler, who said, "In this case the Department is defending the statute, as it traditionally does when acts of Congress are challenged. The Department does not pick and choose which federal laws it will defend based on any one Administration’s policy preferences."

According to Socarides and Americablog, Schmaler's statement is a flat-out lie.

Explained Socarides: "From my experience, in a case where, as here, there are important political and social issues at stake, the president’s relationship with the Justice Department should work like this: The president makes a policy decision first and then the very talented DOJ lawyers figure out how to apply it to actual cases. If the lawyers cannot figure out how to defend a statute and stay consistent with the president’s policy decision, the policy decision should always win out. Thus, the general rule that the DOJ must defend laws against attack is relative – like everything in Washington."

Read the brief, if you're interested, AFTER THE JUMP...

Dept. of Justice Defends Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy

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  1. The Log Cabin Republicans started this case... 6 years ago! And the HRC is just supporting it now?

    Posted by: Jason (the commenter) | Mar 30, 2010 8:59:19 PM

  2. Andy instead of being a HRC whiner and kvetcher why not provide your readers with the phone number or email to the White House and have them call or write....if you and your swarm are "activists".
    And I doubt Choi had anything to do for it.

    He should have not worn his uniform.
    remember St. Patricks Cathedral...sure it cathartic but ... it's PR.

    Posted by: MCnNYC | Mar 30, 2010 9:54:21 PM

  3. Actually, the Socarides comments were in response to the heinous Obama DOJ brief defending DOMA last year, but it still fits perfectly in this case, too.

    And let's clean up some other confusion, too. Obama is the master of mesmerizing with empty rhetoric those desperate for a pat on the head. So good that he ties them in knots arguing with themselves over their delusions of what he said. No one can hold him accountable for saying he was for repeal this year then not fighting for it because he NEVER said it. Too few after the SOTU got that the ONLY timeframe he committed to was about Congress NOT repeal. He said:

    “THIS YEAR, I will WORK WITH CONGRESS and our military to finally repeal the law ....”

    NOT: “I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law THIS YEAR.”

    One doesn’t even have to remember that he’d long since betrayed his promise during the primary campaign to start “that work” the day he took office [i.e., 14 months ago] to see the intentional sentence structure trick above.

    He waved another shiny thing in the form of
    more CAREFULLY parsed words and gays started speaking in tongues AGAIN! How many times does this guy have to bitch fool slap us for people to WAKE UP?

    Jessica H. Christ! Gays are still asking questions about the "meaning" of The Study rather than what they should have done two months ago: CONDEMN IT ENTIRELY because, regardless of what the Gates et al say it's about, it is the actual weapon they're using to delay read KILL repeal.

    In short, while more are realizing just how thoroughly we’re being played, others continue to see only a part of it because they’re unable to admit to themselves just how TOTAL a phony our self-anointed “fierce advocate” has been. To use a legal analogy, Obama Inc., isn’t simply guilty of “negligent homicide,” of allowing repeal to die. They’re guilty of “premeditated murder.”

    This is [at least] the THIRD pro DADT Obama DOJ brief attempts to poison overturning the ban.

    His SECDEF Gates is in charge of the death squad trying to smother repeal until it runs out of oxygen Nov. 2nd.

    And anyone who doesn't believe it’s all being orchestrated by the namesake of the Obama Nostra because he’s convinced he/the DNC will lose more votes by repeal than they’ll lose by killing it is a voluntary fool!

    If he won't freeze discharges that he's declared are both unjust and weaken national security, freeze the GAYTM!

    Out of the blogs and into the streets!

    Posted by: Michael @ | Mar 30, 2010 9:56:09 PM

  4. On no! We might not be able to afford our new suit - quick - do something that makes it look like we care about gays!

    Posted by: taodon | Mar 30, 2010 11:01:27 PM

  5. Stuff thyself, MCN.

    Dan Choi wearing his uniform was PR PERFECT! He IS a soldier. He was protesting the MILITARY's gay hatred. That's why they call it civil disobedience.

    He risked federal prison for violating the UCMJ. You? Oh, yeh. A snarky post without revealing your actual name and a phone call.

    Thanks for your sacrifice!

    Posted by: Michael @ | Mar 30, 2010 11:50:57 PM

  6. Oh No! What is the HRC thinking? They'll never be invited to the fancy parties in D.C. now!

    Posted by: James | Mar 31, 2010 1:50:25 AM

  7. Oh brother.

    Posted by: Derek Washington | Mar 31, 2010 5:16:15 AM

  8. MCnNYC must be Joe Solmonsleaze

    Posted by: Wolf | Mar 31, 2010 6:35:09 AM

  9. Shame on you again Towleroad for thinking you know everything that's going on behind the scenes and criticizing HRC because they aren't affecting the change how you think it should be affected. How counterproductive it would be for Obama to repeal DADT without the sufficient support in place behind him to keep him politically powerful. He's building that...give him the chance to do it. Its not like this is the only item on his or our or the country's agenda. I LOVE your blog but sometimes you're so infantile and simplistic about politics. HRC is our best LGBT organization for national issues and you just keep attacking them instead of supporting them. Shame on you!

    Posted by: Andrew Chapin | Mar 31, 2010 8:23:05 AM

  10. To be fair the cocktail party schedule was a little too full to write anything until now.

    Posted by: Mike | Mar 31, 2010 9:50:32 AM

  11. Michael, talk about empty rhetoric, all you do is empty rhetoric.

    Posted by: Sam | Mar 31, 2010 1:42:59 PM

  12. Andrew, are you off your meds? Criticizing Andy because he doesn't know what's going on "behind the scenes?" That's about as lame as Nixon's secret plan to end the war. The fact is that Obama has done nothing but give lip service to LGBT concerns and your beloved HRC doesn't have the balls to call him on it.

    Sit down some night and make a list of everything HRC has ever accomplished. You won't be pleased. They sat on their fat asses and let DOMA and DADT become law under the previous Democrat "savior." Ten years later we have a different Democrat but the same ass kissing and once again, zero results.

    I don't know Andy but I suspect he understands better than you the need for some organization to undertake HRC's mission. He only wants it done with a minimu of competence.

    Posted by: JusticeontheRocks | Mar 31, 2010 2:40:49 PM

  13. This just proves the point that REAL lgbt activists have been making for years. If we want equality, WE MUST CUT ALL TIES TO THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY, PERIOD, END OF DEBATE. So long as we chain ourselves to this homophobic gay-bashing party, we will always be compromised.

    Posted by: Norm D PLume | Mar 31, 2010 4:09:23 PM

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