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Politicians, Advocates Push for Repeal of DADT Amid Court Ruling

After a judge in Riverside, California found the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy unconstitutional yesterday, a host of politicians and activists pounced on the ruling, saying that this should be used as an impetus to repeal the policy legislatively, or that the Administration shouldn’t appeal the ruling and allow the policy to die.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), one of the strongest advocates for repeal, supports both steps, saying that the DoJ shouldn’t appeal, and that the policy gives a strong impetus to Congress to act:

“Judge Phillips’ ruling is a major step forward for our efforts to repeal this immoral and harmful policy. I strongly hope that the ruling of this policy as unconstitutional will stand and that the Department of Justice will eventually choose not to appeal. President Obama has been an outspoken advocate for repeal and it would send a strong message if his Justice Department were to choose not to appeal. The decision should also serve as a call to action for Congress to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’

“Every American, no matter who you are or what you believe, has the God-given right to defend our country. No politician should rightly or lawfully stand in the way of that. Every U.S. Senator took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States. Now it’s time to do just that.

“I am confident that we can bring the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ up for a vote on the Senate floor in the coming weeks, and I urge all of my colleagues to abide by the oath we all took, and end this policy that tears America’s moral fabric and hurts our military readiness.”

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO), another supporter, agreed that the time for repeal has come. And Rep. Paul Hodes (D-NH), running for Senate in New Hampshire, concurred on the need for repeal, while staying silent on the Justice Department’s potential action:

Last night’s ruling is another step forward towards equality in our military, and throughout the United States. Every single American who is fit to serve should have the right to defend our country without fear of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Ultimately, it will be up to Congress to finally put a permanent end to the backwards “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” policy. I am running for the United States Senate to be a voice for equality and tolerance – once I get there, that is exactly what I’ll be.

The Granite State has a long and proud tradition of protecting individual rights for its citizens, which is why I was extremely proud to see the passage of marriage equality in our state. As a U.S. Senator, I will fight to end “Don’t ask, Don’t tell,” repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, and stand up every day for the rights of all Americans.

But the ides that ultimately it will be up to Congress is not exactly correct. As former senior adviser to President Clinton, Richard Socarides, explains:

There are two things we should all be insisting on from President Obama and Attorney General Holder right now. We all need to be united about this as a community.

One, there is no excuse, and there can be none, for the continued enforcement of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, even in a scaled down version. The president says he’s against it, the American people are against it, it hurts our national security, and now a federal court has ruled it violates our sacred constitution. This insanity must end now. There must be a complete and immediate end to all DADT discharges.

Second, there is no valid legal (or political) reason to pursue an appeal. There is no legal obligation to continue to defend a law declared unconstitutional by a sitting federal judge. We must insist on an unequivocal statement from the president that he will allow the ruling to stand, because it is in accordance with his long held view, but more importantly, because doing so is consistent with our constitution. We must expect and demand no less from him. No appeal. Let this ruling become the law of the land.

Others believe Congress needs to act anyway, and pursue repeal on a separate track even while urging the DoJ to drop the case and live with the consequences, which align with the publicly stated goals of the President. The online group Courage Campaign is pressing Harry Reid to schedule a vote on the defense authorization bill, which includes a legislative repeal, and finish off this sad chapter of American history once and for all.

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David Dayen

David Dayen