A Slow Death for 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'
Late September has traditionally been associated with the harvest, reaping the products of a long, bountiful summer. This September, though, has left many of us who work to secure the equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans reaching for the Maalox, unsure of exactly how, when or where our efforts will bear fruit.
There's no doubt that the U.S. Senate dealt us a major setback last week when it failed to move to a vote a defense bill that contained language that would have overturned "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT), the military's ban on gays and lesbians serving openly. Democrats were unable to gather sufficient support to break a filibuster by born-again conservative John McCain.
A colossal disappointment, to be sure, and one that requires considerably more from President Obama if he is to meet his pledge to have the discriminatory policy ended before the year is out. But last week's Senate train wreck somewhat overshadowed two substantial victories won in court by opponents of the ban. On September 9, in a case brought by the gay political group Log Cabin Republicans, U.S. District Court judge Virginia Phillips ruled that not only does DADT violate the rights of lesbian, gay and bisexual soldiers by depriving them of their rights to due process and free speech; it also has a "direct and deleterious effect" on military readiness. (How could it not, when thousands of military personnel, many with vital training in Arabic, Farsi and other skills, have been expelled?) And on September 24, as activists were still shaking off their Senate-induced depression, another federal judge ordered that Maj. Margaret Witt, discharged under DADT from the Air Force in 2007, be reinstated. Lambda Legal was proud to file a friend-of-the-court brief in this ACLU case.