Moments after the Justice Department asked a district court judge to stay her injunction of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell so that it could appeal the decision, President Obama told young voters at an MTV-sponsored town hall that the policy should be repealed by Congress, not through an executive order or the courts.
Distinguishing himself from President Harry Truman — who desegregated the armed forces via executive order in 1948 — Obama explained that “the difference between my position right now and Harry Truman’s was that Congress explicitly passed a law that took away the power of the executive branch to end this policy unilaterally. So this is not a situation in which with a stroke of a pen I can simply end a policy.” Obama stressed that he’s been able to convince Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen to support repeal and promised that the policy would end “on my watch”:
OBAMA: I agree with the basic principle that anybody who wants to serve in our armed forces and make sacrifices on our behalf, on behalf of our national security — anybody should be able to serve. And they shouldn’t have to lie about who they are in order to serve. So we are moving in the direction of ending this policy. It has to be done in a way that is orderly because we are involved in a war right now. But, this is not a question of whether the policy will end. This policy will end and it will end on my watch. But I do have an obligation to make sure that I’m following some of the rules. I can’t simply ignore laws that are out there, I’ve got to work to make sure that they are changed.
LGBT activists and Democratic lawmakers however, have argued that Obama could use his stop-loss authority to issue an order prohibiting the Secretary of Defense from establishing, implementing, or applying any personnel or administrative policies on the basis of sexual orientation or, alternatively, fail to appeal the recent federal district court ruling if he believes that the policy was unconstitutional. Obama, however, has previously said that it is.
During the town hall, Obama spoke about the recent bullying of LGBT teens and expressed support for legislation that would criminalize such behavior. He also said that he didn’t think being gay or transexual was a choice. “I don’t think it’s a choice,” he said. “I think that people are born with a certain make-up and we are all children of God. We don’t make determination about who we love and that’s why I think discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is wrong.”
The Washington Post is reporting that the Pentagon “will comply with a court order to stop enforcing its ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy barring gays from serving openly in the military, even as the Obama administration asked a federal judge to delay implementation of the ruling. Officials say they need time to institute new policies to ensure that the change won’t affect combat readiness or morale. The administration has said it will appeal the ruling to the the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.”