Senators: Don't Appeal DADT Ruling

BY Kerry Eleveld

October 12 2010 5:20 PM ET

A total of 21 U.S. senators have signed on a to letter urging Atty. Gen. Eric Holder not to appeal last month’s ruling by Judge Virginia Phillips that found “don’t ask, don’t tell” to be unconstitutional. Phillips ordered Tuesday afternoon that all discharges under the policy be halted, and by early evening the Department of Justice had given no indication whether it would seek to stay the injunction on discharges.

Senators Mark Udall of Colorado and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York led the effort to circulate the letter, which they originally sent to Holder last month.

“In light of important national security concerns, we respectfully request that you, in your capacity at the Department of Justice, refrain from appealing this decision or the permanent injunction granted against this law,” the senators wrote to Holder.

“President Obama, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, have all publicly advocated for the repeal of this harmful law,” the senators continued. “There is no legal or military justification and not one shred of credible evidence that supports continuing the discriminatory DADT law, and considering the guidance of the commander-in-chief and the nation’s top two defense officials, we urge you to refrain from seeking an appeal. The federal court decision was a step in the right direction, and we are confident that the Senate will take the ultimate step by voting this fall on the fiscal year 2011 National Defense Authorization Act to permanently lift the ban on gays in the military. Although we understand that only action by Congress can bring real finality to this issue, we believe an appeal of the recent federal court decision could set back those congressional efforts. Therefore, we request your assistance in ensuring that we can eradicate this discriminatory law permanently and urge the Justice Department to choose not to appeal any court decision that would keep this law in place.”

Udall and Gillibrand originally sent the letter to Holder in September. They are now joined by Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Roland Burris (D-I;;.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Ben Cardin (D-Md.). The additional signatures are a testament to the support in the U.S. Senate for repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Full text of the letter is below:

Dear Mr. Attorney General,

We are writing to bring to your attention the recently issued decision of Judge Virginia A. Phillips of the United States District Court of the Central District of California in Log Cabin Republicans v. United States, which declared that the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) underlying law violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of due process and free speech, thereby rendering DADT unconstitutional. In light of important national security concerns, we respectfully request that you, in your capacity at the Department of Justice, refrain from appealing this decision or the permanent injunction granted against this law.

The following quote from the judge’s decision captures the overwhelming reason why the decision should stand: “Among those discharged were many with critically needed skills … Far from furthering the military's readiness, the discharge of these service men and women had a direct and deleterious effect on this governmental interest.” As one of many criteria that the Justice Department will examine in deciding whether to appeal the permanent injunction to this policy, we ask that you examine whether or not an appeal furthers a legitimate governmental interest. We would say any appeal does not.

Additionally, DADT harms military readiness, as well as the morale and the cohesiveness of our armed forces, at a time when our military’s resources are strained and unity is critically important. For every person discharged after ten years of service, six new servicemembers would need to be recruited to recover the level of experience lost by that discharge. This not only weakens our military, but neither is it an effective use of our government resources or taxpayer monies.

President Obama, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, have all publicly advocated for the repeal of this harmful law. There is no legal or military justification and not one shred of credible evidence that supports continuing the discriminatory DADT law, and considering the guidance of the commander-in-chief and the nation’s top two defense officials, we urge you to refrain from seeking an appeal. The federal court decision was a step in the right direction, and we are confident that the Senate will take the ultimate step by voting this fall on the fiscal year 2011 National Defense Authorization Act to permanently lift the ban on gays in the military. Although we understand that only action by Congress can bring real finality to this issue, we believe an appeal of the recent federal court decision could set back those congressional efforts. Therefore, we request your assistance in ensuring that we can eradicate this discriminatory law permanently and urge the Justice Department to choose not to appeal any court decision that would keep this law in place.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. We look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,























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