White House assures skeptics on 'don't ask'
The White House assured gay rights groups on Thursday evening that the Justice Department's decision to object to immediately ending the military's ban on openly gay service members in no way diminishes President Obama's goal of ending the "don't ask, don't tell" law.
Government lawyers responded on Thursday to a federal judge's recent ruling that the gay ban is unconstitutional by saying she should not enforce that ruling with a military-wide injunction banning the discharge of gay and lesbian service members.
The filing "clearly shows why Congress must act to end this misguided policy," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said in a statement.
Obama was disappointed by Tuesday's Senate vote that failed to allow for debate to begin on the annual Defense policy bill that includes a repeal of the ban, Gibbs said. Despite the vote, the Pentagon continues to study how to implement a potential repeal and the White House will work with Senate Democrats to end the law, he said.
"This announcement is disappointing, but no surprise," said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a group fighting to end the ban. "It underscores that we need the White House actively working repeal in the lame duck session, and making it a top priority."
But White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina assured students at his alma mater on Wednesday that the gay ban will be struck down soon.
"We're going to get that done this year," Messina said at the University of Montana, according to the Montana Kaimin campus newspaper.
Gay rights activists consider Messina's comments most critical since he brokered the deal in May that inserted repeal of DADT into the House and Senate versions of the Defense bill.
Despite Messina's assurances, the Human Rights Campaign -- a close partner of the Obama White House -- said Thursday that "the Justice Department has no obligation to defend a law that is wrong, discriminatory and not in the best national security interests of our country."
Make no mistake: Gay rights groups, and prominent gay Democrats are furious with Obama and his aides for not doing more to ensure this week's vote succeeded. They're tempering their frustrations now, but if the next round of Congressional votes fail, you should expect critics to speak up more forcefully.
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• GOP's 'Pledge to America' includes plan to cut federal workforce: House Republicans want to stop hiring federal employees not working on defense, homeland security or veterans concerns, a proposal long anticipated by federal worker unions and supportive Democrats.
NATIONAL HIGHWAY TRAFFIC SAFETY ADMINISTRATION:
• Safety seats credited with reducing child deaths in vehicle crashes: In 4 percent of the 33,808 traffic fatalities last year, the victims were children 14 or younger, according to the latest numbers from the agency.
NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD:
• Air traffic controller error led to near-collision over Minneapolis: Two planes - one carrying 95 people - passed within 100 feet of each other in a cloud bank over Minneapolis this month.
• Diplomats in Iraq at risk, commission says: Now that most U.S. military forces have left Iraq, the American diplomats they left behind face grave security problems that the State Department is ill-prepared to tackle.
| September 24, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories: Administration, Eye Opener, Military
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