‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Remains in Effect Months After Passage of Law to End It
By JOHN SCHWARTZ
This week, Mr. Obama’s Justice Department is expected to file papers with a federal court in California that, essentially, defend the original policy.
Meanwhile, the system for discharging people found to be gay has not been dismantled.
So what’s going on? Is “don’t ask, don’t tell” a legal zombie — dead but still walking around? Even those involved in the case say they find the situation absurd — and frustrating.
“Why is the case still alive?” asked R. Clarke Cooper, the executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, the group that sued in federal court to have the policy overturned. “A lot of people would be surprised to know that the discharge panels are still in place.”
The problem, Mr. Cooper explained, is one of timing: “don’t ask, don’t tell” is not quite dead, and so the fight over killing it in the courts is still, improbably, alive.
The bill passed by Congress did not actually repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell,” but only created a mechanism for doing so. The policy will not end until 60 days after the president, the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify that the Department of Defense “has prepared the necessary policies and regulations” to carry out the change, and that the shift will not damage the ability of the military to fight or recruit. Until then, the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010 expressly states that the old policy “shall remain in effect.”
And so the Log Cabin lawsuit continues in a federal appeals court in California, holding the government’s feet to the fire and defying politicians who have recommended reinstating the law. And the government has kept its policies in place.
On the day that President Obama signed the bill, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates issued a memorandum to the secretaries of the military departments advising them it was “important that service members understand...