Washington — The Department of Justice asked a federal judge Thursday to set aside her decision stopping the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for gays and lesbians until it can appeal the ruling, saying it would “irreparably harm our military and the national security of the United States.”
Government lawyers also told U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips of Riverside, Calif., that if she does not lift her order by Monday, they will ask the 9th U.S. Circuit Court to halt it. If the appeals court in San Francisco fails to act, the government likely will ask the Supreme Court to intervene.
The filing set off a flurry of activity on both coasts. In a town hall meeting in Washington, President Barack Obama — faced with a politically awkward issue just before the midterm congressional elections — pledged he will end the highly controversial 17-year-old policy for removing homosexuals from the U.S. Armed Forces.
“Anybody should be able to serve, and they should not have to lie about who they are in order to serve. This policy will end. It will end on my watch,” Obama said.
But the president acknowledged that he is hamstrung by the fact that the policy is written into law and said “this is not a situation where I can, by the stroke of a pen, end this policy.”
In the meantime the Pentagon said that it would suspend enforcement of the don’t ask, don’t tell law while the injunction remains in place.