SAN DIEGO — Attorneys for the Obama administration objected Thursday to a proposed worldwide injunction being considered by a California federal judge that would halt the military's ban on openly gay troops.
Calling the possible move "untenable," Department of Justice attorneys filed their objections in U.S. District Court in Riverside.
They said Judge Virginia Phillips, who declared the policy unconstitutional earlier this month, would be overstepping her bounds if she tried to stop it in its tracks.
Instead, she should limit any injunction to the 19,000 members of the Log Cabin Republicans, the gay rights organization that filed the lawsuit to stop enforcement of the ban, the lawyers said.
The case has put the White House in the uncomfortable position of defending a policy President Obama has said he wants repealed.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the Department of Justice traditionally defends legal challenges to acts of Congress, but that does not mean the administration is backpedaling on its efforts to get rid of "don't ask, don't tell."
"This filing in no way diminishes the president's firm commitment to achieve a legislative repeal of DADT – indeed, it clearly shows why Congress must act to end this misguided policy," Gibbs said in a statement e-mailed to The Associated Press.
Phillips was asked to order an injunction that would immediately stop the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy from being used to discharge any U.S. military personnel anywhere in the world.
"A court should not compel the executive to implement an immediate cessation of the 17-year-old policy without regard for any effect such an abrupt change might have on the military's operations, particularly at a time when the military is engaged in combat operations and other demanding military activities around the globe," federal attorneys said in their objection.
Phillips has said she will issue an order to stop the policy nationwide. The policy also is being challenged in a federal court in Tacoma, Wash. where a lawyer for a decorated flight nurse discharged for being gay is urging a federal judge to reinstate her to the Air Force Reserve.
The judge in that case was expected to issue his ruling Friday and has expressed strong doubts about government arguments seeking to have the dismissal upheld.
Department of Justice officials declined to comment further.
Attorney Dan Woods, who is representing the Log Cabin Republicans, called the government's objections "hypocritical and particularly disappointing" since Democrats recently failed to muster enough votes in the Senate to repeal the policy.
He said it also ignores the fact that the Log Cabin Republicans won their lawsuit seeking an order to stop the policy nationwide.
"It's like the South saying they won the Civil War," Woods said.
Woods said he will file a response outlying those points on Friday.
"In asking for a stay, they are ignoring again that the judge has repeatedly refused to stay the case because Congress is talking about 'don't ask, don't tell,'" he said. "And frankly worse of all to me, it ignores the harm that is being suffered by service members."
The "don't ask, don't tell" policy prohibits the military from asking about the sexual orientation of service members. Under the 1993 policy, service men and women who acknowledge being gay or are discovered engaging in homosexual activity, even in the privacy of their own homes off base, are subject to discharge.
In her ruling, Phillips said the policy doesn't help military readiness and instead has a "direct and deleterious effect" on the armed services by hurting recruiting during wartime and requiring the discharge of service members with critical skills and training.