Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Cheers to Fed Judge for Ruling "Don't Ask Don't Tell" Unconstitutional

Three cheers to Judge Virginia A. Phillips of Federal District Court in California for ruling the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy unconstitutional today.  Insisting that people keep their mouths shut about their sexual preferences, on threat of being discharged from their military service, has indeed been an unconscionable violation of the First Amendment, which expressly forbids Congress from making any law that abridges anyone's freedom of speech.

Not everyone deserves applause in this important matter.  Certainly not our Justice Department, which opposed the suit that led to the court decision today, and is reported to be gearing up for an appeal.  And let's be clear: the Justice Department does not operate on its own.   It is 100% an expression of the President's views.   Obama thus warrants as severe a criticism on this as his Justice Department.

The Department of Defense has been somewhat better - it is at least moving towards doing away with the policy.  This Department is of course under the President's power as well, so Obama deserves some credit on this score.  But not too much credit - why didn't the Pentagon end this unconstitutional policy without a court order?

Indeed, Obama could have ended it the day he took office.   As a strong supporter of a lot of what he has accomplished, and tried to accomplish, as President, I remain disappointed by his weak, indecisive leadership on this fundamental issue.   He can redeem himself, somewhat, now, by decisively telling his Justice Department to drop any plans for appeal, and acknowledge the First Amendment.

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