Late last month, the Department of Justice filed a brief in federal court in California defending the ban on gay men and women serving openly in the military. One of the most controversial aspects of the DOJ’s brief was that it contained quotes supporting the ban from ret. Gen. Colin Powell — but it didn’t note that Powell has since disowned those statements and called for a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. A couple of examples of the language in the brief:
— General Colin Powell similarly testified that, “[t]o win wars, we create cohesive teams of warriors who will bond so tightly that they are prepared to go into battle and give their lives if necessary for the accomplishment of the mission and for the cohesion of the group and for their individual buddies.”
— General Powell testified that homosexual conduct in units “involves matters of privacy and human sexuality that, … if allowed to exist openly in the military, would affect the cohesion and well-being of the force.”
But in February, of course, Powell said that, “In the almost 17 years since the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ legislation was passed, attitudes and circumstances have changed.”
In today’s White House press briefing, The Advocate’s Washington correspondent Kerry Eleveld asked Press Secretary Robert Gibbs about the DOJ’s brief. Instead of backing it, Gibbs said that he found it “odd” that officials included Powell’s old remarks, adding that President Obama would probably agree with his assessment:
ELEVELD: Is the President at all concerned that DOJ is a little insular or tone deaf on issues that are sort of politically sticky, especially those of interest to the LGBT community?
GIBBS: I will say this, obviously the President has enunciated his support for ending “don’t ask, don’t tell,” rolling back — made a commitment to roll back DOMA in the campaign. Obviously, the Justice Department has — is charged with upholding the law as it exists, not as the President would like to see it. We have obviously taken steps on the front of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and I think we’ve made a genuine amount of progress. I will say, was it odd that they included previous statements from General Colin Powell on a belief set that he no longer had? I don’t think the President would disagree with that.
Palm Center Director Aaron Belkin and Senior Fellow Nathaniel Frank also recently gave depositions in this case, Log Cabin v. United States, and are now claiming that the DOJ misrepresented their arguments about “whether privacy concerns for service members constituted a rational basis for the enactment of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 1993.”