Gibbs Maintains Obama’s Opposition to ‘Don’t Ask’ as Justice Launches Defense

Posted September 23, 2010 at 8:59pm

Updated: 11:04 p.m.

The White House reasserted President Barack Obama’s opposition to the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy Thursday, as the Justice Department took steps to defend the ban on openly gay troops — a clash that pits the president against his own administration.

“Today, the Department of Justice made a filing in a legal challenge to the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy, as it traditionally does when acts of Congress are challenged,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a statement. “This filing in no way diminishes the president’s firm commitment to achieve a legislative repeal of DADT. Indeed, it clearly shows why Congress must act to end this misguided policy.”

Justice Department attorneys objected Thursday to a proposed worldwide injunction that would immediately halt DADT. Calling it “untenable,” they asked U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips to instead limit any injunction to the 19,000 members of the Log Cabin Republicans, the gay rights group that requested it, the Associated Press reported. Phillips, of the Central District of California, declared the policy unconstitutional this month and has said she will issue an order to stop the policy nationwide.

Gay rights advocates have been rallying for a DADT repeal, and the House passed one a few months ago. But Senate Democratic leaders fell four votes short this week when they tried to advance a defense authorization bill that included the repeal, and some gay rights groups are already blaming the White House for not doing more to help secure votes of support.

Gibbs said Obama was disappointed to see the Senate bill held up by “political posturing.” He highlighted instances where the president has made his opposition to DADT clear, including speaking out against it in his State of the Union address and working with the Defense Department to come up with a plan for implementing repeal.

“The president, along with his administration, will continue to work with the Senate leadership to achieve a legislative repeal of DADT … this fall,” the White House spokesman said.

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said the move means that Democrats need to press harder for a DADT repeal in the lame-duck session.

“This announcement is disappointing, but no surprise,” Sarvis said in an e-mail. “It underscores that we need the White House actively working repeal in the lame duck session, and making it a top priority.”

A request for comment from a Justice Department spokesman was not immediately returned.