WASHINGTON -- Administration officials are trying to calm tempers after reports that the White House is declining to discuss court challenges to the military's Don't Ask Don't Tell policy during a summit with leading LGBT officials.
On Tuesday, Kerry Eleveld of The Advocate obtained and published a White House email to gay-rights organizations set to participate in what is, ostensibly, a policy briefing. In the email, the White house liaison to the gay community, Brian Bond, said that "there can be no discussion of current court cases or legal strategy" during the proceedings "or Counsel's office will end the meeting."
"The focus," Bond added, "is repeal and the lame duck session."
Among LGBT activists, the leaked invitation was interpreted as evidence that the administration is not only punting on Don't Ask Don't Tell (the Justice Department is set to appeal a ruling overturning the 17-year old policy) but also unwilling to hear dissenting opinions.
Asked for comment, however, an administration official stressed that there are very precise legal lines that can't be crossed. One of them is talking about ongoing litigation with litigants in the room.
"Some of the participants in the meeting are involved in active litigation against the government on the issue of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, so it wouldn't be appropriate to discuss that litigation," said the administration official "This is standard procedure for any meeting where that would be the case."
"You could add further that our lawyers can't have contact with represented parties without their counsel being present."
The explanation seems to make logical sense and dispels, to a certain extent, the notion that the White House wants to choke off any discussion of its position on DADT. But it raises a follow-up question; mainly, why hold a meeting with the counsel's office in the first place if the purpose is to discuss legislative strategy?
"Because they're experts on the law," the administration official answered. "You can't discuss the ongoing cases. But you can discuss other avenues."