Obama asks for suspension of gay military order
US President Barack Obama's administration has asked an appeals court Wednesday to immediately suspend a judge's ruling allowing gays to serve openly in the military, saying that it is a matter for Congress to decide.
AFP - US President Barack Obama's administration asked an appeals court Wednesday to immediately suspend a judge's decision to repeal a ban on gays serving openly in the military.
The US military said Tuesday it was accepting openly gay recruits for the first time in the country's history, as District Judge Virginia Phillips of California refused to grant the Obama administration a stay on her court order.
The Justice Department urged the appeals court in San Francisco to immediately suspend Phillips's repeal of the controversial "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy, while it considered a reversal of her stay decision.
"We respectfully request that the court enter an administrative stay by today... which would maintain the status quo that prevailed before the district court's decision while the court considers the government's stay motion," it said in a statement.
Obama has long said he plans to scrap the policy, which since 1993 has required gay and lesbian service members to stay quiet about their sexuality or face being kicked out, but he believes it is a matter for Congress.
"The administration... strongly believes that Congress should repeal it," the Justice Department statement said.
Obama has ordered a review of the implications of lifting the ban, which is due to be completed by the end of the year.
In its court filings, the Justice Department laid out the argument that more time was needed to provide forces, especially combat troops, with "proper training and guidance" with respect to the policy change.
"Implementing an immediate change to this longstanding statutory policy without providing proper training and guidance would be disruptive to military commanders and to servicemembers as they carry out their mission and military responsibilities, especially in active combat," it said.
Opponents of the ban argue that it violates the rights of gay service members and has harmed national security by forcing out some 14,000 qualified troops.
Advocates of the rule, including the outgoing head of the US Marine Corps, say it ensures "unit cohesion," and that changing the law during wartime could prove disruptive.
If the ban is lifted for good, the American military would be following the example of other US allies, including Britain and Israel, which have reported no serious problems since allowing gays to serve openly in uniform.
Polls have shown a majority of Americans support ending the ban, but Republican lawmakers, including former presidential candidate John McCain, opposed the most recent attempt to change the rule.
Gay rights groups had urged Washington not to further appeal the ruling.
Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese called the rule "an unconscionable law that forces brave lesbian and gay Americans to serve in silence."