In a briefing on Tuesday, White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs distanced the Obama administration from a recent Justice Department brief on the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law that bars openly gay men and women from serving in the military.
Gay rights groups were upset that the Justice Department cited a 1993 statement from Gen. Colin Powell in support of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a position he has since reversed, in a federal court brief last week. Among other points, DOJ argued that the presence of gays in the military increases sexual tension and invades the privacy of service members.
Gibbs pointed out that the Justice Department was required to defend existing laws, even if the president wants to change them.
“I will say, was it odd that they included previous statements from General Colin Powell on a belief set that he no longer had? I don’t think the President would disagree with that,” said Gibbs.
From the transcript:
Q So obviously there’s a number of cases sort of wending their way through the courts right now challenging DOMA [Defense of Marriage Act] and “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Last week the Department of Justice filed another brief defending “don’t ask, don’t tell.” It angered a lot of advocates; some legal scholars thought it was a step backwards in terms of dismantling the law. Is the President at all concerned that DOJ is a little insular or tone deaf on issues that are sort of politically sticky, especially those of interest to the L/G community?
MR. GIBBS: I will say this, obviously the President has enunciated his support for ending “don’t ask, don’t tell,” rolling back — made a commitment to roll back DOMA in the campaign. Obviously, the Justice Department has — is charged with upholding the law as it exists, not as the President would like to see it. We have obviously taken steps on the front of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and I think we’ve made a genuine amount of progress. I will say, was it odd that they included previous statements from General Colin Powell on a belief set that he no longer had? I don’t think the President would disagree with that.