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