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 Obama’s speech on LGBT rights in the United States

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

When it comes to gay rights, President Obama has been forceful in declaring where he stands, promising to bring an end to both the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal recognition of same-sex couples.

Yet even after federal judges ruled separately that both laws are unconstitutional, the Obama administration’s Justice Department has continued with appeals, saying it’s bound by a “duty to defend” the laws even if it doesn’t like them.

The Department’s latest appeal came Wednesday when government lawyers asked a federal appeals court to reinstate the military’s ban on openly gay service members after District Court Judge Virginia Phillips ruled it unconstitutional and issued an immediate, worldwide injunction against the policy.

The administration’s handling of the case has angered critics on both sides of the issue. Gay rights advocates, infuriated by what they see as hypocrisy, and some legal scholars, insist the “duty to defend” has already been fulfilled and that there is ample precedent for the administration to let Judge Phillips’ decision stand. Meanwhile, supporters of the law say the administration’s invocation of their “duty” is a smokescreen for a halfhearted defense.

A federal appeals court reinstated the policy late Wednesday. A three-judge panel granted the Justice Department’s emergency request to allow the policy to remain on the books so that the appeals court could have more time to fully consider the issues presented.