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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 22, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 43
DADT in flux, Gay troops left in limbo
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DADT in flux, Gay troops left in limbo

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

Does anyone else want off of this ride? The legal and social battle over the U.S. military's outdated and just plain discriminatory policy 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' (DADT), which bars Gays and Lesbians from serving openly, has taken on a whole new life during the past two weeks. The words 'bizarre' and 'limbo' immediately come to mind.

The week started off promisingly enough, as those on both sides of the DADT repeal expected U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips to reject the government's effort to halt her order, telling the military to stop enforcing the 17-year policy. On October 18, Phillips did just that, and 24 hours later, headlines across the nation shouted, 'U.S Military Accepting Openly Gay Recruits!' & or so we thought. The Justice Department immediately asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to issue a temporary stay on Phillip's ruling. No big surprise there; from the beginning, President Obama and the Justice Department have said that, regardless of public opinion (over half of all Americans are pro-repeal), they have the legal obligation to defend any law currently in place.

As soon as I heard that former Army Lieutenant and DADT repeal poster boy Dan Choi was headed to a New York City recruiter's office to reenlist in the U.S. military, I decided to call around and find what the Pentagon was up to. First, I called a recruiting station in Seattle. I told the recruiter I was 18 years old, I was Gay, and I wanted to enlist. His reply? 'Sure, but I have to warn you that DADT is up for appeal, so I can enlist you in the Delayed Entry Program.' I got an identical response from a recruiter in Jacksonville, Florida and another in Washington, D.C.

The military's Delayed Entry Program (DEP) is designed to put enlistees on a waiting list for boot camp so that their graduation day coincides with the specific job training they have been assigned. In other words, the Gays and Lesbians who proudly marched into recruiting stations this week were simply put on a list and told to wait until - if or when - the law is repealed. Bloggers (and some major newspapers) across the country jumped the gun and reported that Choi, and other openly Gay and Lesbian recruits, had been accepted back into the military. This is simply not true.

Is anyone else beginning to feel like a yo-yo?

Opponents of Judge Phillip's ruling said that the confusion that has come up is exactly what Pentagon officials feared and shows the need for her to immediately freeze her order while the government appeals and the military's so-called comprehensive survey of the troops and their families is complete. The reasoning behind all this, so says Obama, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, is that they will then have the proof they need to show Congress that not only do most Americans want the law gone, but so do the troops. The administration has said it wants Congress, not the courts, to end the ban.

The House of Representatives voted to end the ban earlier this year, but the Senate refused after a filibuster by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). There is no indication that the Senate will change its mind when it returns to Washington for the lame-duck session following the November 2 elections, even though the DADT repeal measure is a part of the bill that funds the entire U.S. military. McCain's filibuster also left the overall military funding measure unpassed.

As it turned out, DADT opponents would get their way, after all. On October 21, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a temporary stay for Judge Phillip's order halting all enforcement of the military's DADT policy. As of now, anyone on the DEP lists who admitted to being Gay or Lesbian cannot enlist in the military and all investigations into active duty servicemembers accused of 'homosexual acts' has resumed.

In a brief order, Judges O'Scannlain, Trott and W. Fletcher wrote:

'This court has received appellant's emergency motion to stay the district court's October 12, 2010 order pending appeal. The order is stayed temporarily in order to provide this court with an opportunity to consider full the issued presented. Appellee may file an opposition to the motion for a stay pending appeal by October 25, 2010. To expedite consideration of the motion, no reply shall be filed.'

How the Ninth Circuit will rule is anybody's guess at this point.

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