Two gay active-duty fighter pilots in the U.S. military risked their careers last night to tell us their stories about serving under Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The first story, in the clip above, stopped us cold, as the officer talked about handling the very real possibility of his own death in Iraq -- who would tell his partner -- and learning later that his partner had nearly died at home.
On Tuesday this week, a federal judge in California ruled that Don't Ask, Don't Tell is unconstitutional, that it violates the free speech and due process rights of American troops. The Obama administration won't rule out appealing the verdict and is expected to file shortly, saying that it prefers to have the Senate repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The last time they tried that, in September, the Senate ended up filibustering the defense spending bill for the first time in 48 years.
Rachel Maddow says it looks like we're stuck with Don't Ask, Don't Tell, unless President Obama acts:
The White House line on Don't Ask, Don't Tell now is that they'd like the Senate to repeal it. Absent that action -- absent the moon crashing through the atmosphere and turning us all to green cheese -- the White House says there is an orderly process underway to get rid of the policy. The White House is sternly ensuring everyone that the policy will end.
When you drill down on how they say it will end, they say it will end because the Senate will end it even though the Senate has just chosen not to end it and the Senate is poised to get more conservative, not less, in the imminent elections.
This is incoherence. OutServe, the underground network of gay service personnel, has reported that there is a widespread perception in the military in that the court ruling against the policy Tuesday means the policy is over. We were told in all of our queries today that anyone coming out in the military now is absolutely still at risk of being fired for doing so. It is not over. The policy is still in effect and the plan from the White House for ending it is apparently to count on the United States Senate to do the right thing. That's the plan.
Aaron Belkin, an expert on the issue at U.C. Santa Barbara, told the New York Times the thing that everybody else is dancing around and unwilling to admit, that, "unless the president declines to appeal the ruling in Log Cabin Republicans versus the United States, the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy probably will remain law for years."
He's right, unless you believe the U.S. Senate is going to do the right thing by gay people -- this year, with John McCain still there and a slate of Republican Senate candidates that includes an activist against women even serving in the military who once toured the country promoting the idea that being gay is curable, you know, like as if it's athlete's foot or something.
Unless you believe that the United States Senate after this year's elections is going to do the right thing by gay service members -- hah -- then the decision by the Obama administration whether or not to appeal this ruling is likely a decision between killing this policy now and letting it survive probably forever.
This is not the conclusion I expected to reach after today's reporting on this subject and after today's interviews. Everybody says the Justice Department appealing this ruling is an inevitability. It does not have to be. It is not inevitable. If the administration believes the law is unconstitutional, there is precedent that supports the administration not appealing it and letting the law die.
An orderly time frame for the death of a law can be arranged with the court. I hereby declare that I will never get another callback in Washington ever again for putting it this way to you, but it is the way it is. A plan that has no chance of becoming reality is not a real plan, no matter how much you say it is. You can either end it or you can stop saying you will. Thank you very much.
After the jump, an officer talks about the message DADT sends to gay kids.