69 Democrats Urge Administration Not To Appeal DADT Ruling — And Why They’re Right

Just a day after the Justice Department asked a federal district court to limit an injunction against enforcing Don’t Ask, Don’t tell, 69 progressive Democrats in the House have written a letter asking DOJ not to appeal the judge’s decision in the case:

Mr. President, in this critical time when military readiness is paramount we must recognize the importance of every linguist, flight nurse and infantryman. As you announced our official end of combat operations in Iraq we must prepare for what is to come. To stay above the rest, to maintain the most formidable military force in the world, we must innovate, change and grow. As we update our weaponry and strategy, so too must we open our policy to encourage as much cohesiveness and camaraderie as possible. In the military were lives rely on trust and determination, DADT represents neither.

We consider this matter a top priority to our service members, the American people and the security of the United States. We acknowledge and appreciate your support and hope that together we can end this dishonorable policy once and for all. We hope that you, as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Services, will take this opportunity to restore integrity to our military and decline to appeal Judge Phillip’s ruling.

Indeed, following the successful filibuster of the defense appropriations bill, a growing number of progressives have begun pressuring the White House not to appeal the judge’s decision, seeing it as the most likely scenario under which the White House can live up to its pledge and end the policy before the end of the year.

The other two options are becoming increasingly improbable. The President could use his “stop loss” authority to issue an order “prohibiting the Secretary of Defense — and the Secretary of Homeland Security with respect to the Coast Guard when it is not operating under the Navy — from establishing, implementing, or applying any personnel or administrative policies, or taking a personnel or administrative action, in whole or part on the basis of sexual orientation. The order should further prohibit sexual orientation discrimination within the armed forces and among people seeking entry into the Armed Forces” and include a ban on “further dismissals on the basis of DADT.” Alternatively, the Senate leadership could attempt to pass the defense authorization bill in the aftermath of the midterm elections.

But it’s likely that the looming Democratic defeat in November would only strengthen supporters of DADT, making it far more difficult for the Senate to pass the defense measure with the gradual repeal amendment. Republicans have already unleashed a campaign to prevent the so-called lame duck Congress from taking up important progressive legislation and Democrats have shown no indication that they’re capable of standing up to the GOP bullying. A further complicating factor is the Working Group, which is scheduled to release its findings on December 1st and will likely provide supporters of repeal with further ammunition with which to delay any legislative action.

Similarly, the President, who has thus far been reluctant to upset the repeal compromise the Democrats struck with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, would have to issue his order after voters had presumably “rejected” the so-called Obama agenda. If anything his instincts will be telling him to move to the right, rather than the left.

The Department of Justice DOJ has an obligation to defend existing law, but as the Palm Center laid out on Wednesday, “it would be inaccurate to characterize this common practice as a mandatory requirement that DOJ must always defend federal laws in all cases, without exception.” As the 69 Democrats write, this case is that exception because the policy is unjust and declining to appeal its unconstitutionality is one of a shrinking list of options the administration has if it’s to live up to its obligations.