As the Washington Blade reports, in Florida, GOP Attorney General Bill McCollum announced Friday that he won’t appeal a court ruling last month overturning Florida’s law banning gay people from adopting children, putting a “final end” to the 33-year old state prohibition.
Meanwhile, the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” ban on openly gay servicemembers is back in effect, after an appellate court granted the Obama Administration’s request for an injunction to a district court ruling that had, for several weeks, put an end to government-ordered discrimination against gay citizens. With a Republican House on the horizon and the U.S. Supreme Court’s tradition of military deference, there is a real risk that the reinstated gay ban could be with us for a long time.
Interestingly, the Blade story reports that this need not have been the case:
legal experts, including constitutional specialists with the American Civil Liberties Union and the LGBT litigation group Lambda Legal, agree that presidents generally should defend federal laws. But they say the obligation to defend a law should not apply to cases where strong evidence exists that the law is unconstitutional and a court issues a ruling overturning the law on constitutional grounds. . . .
“The question is no longer whether the Executive will defend an Act of Congress, but whether the Executive will appeal from a well-reasoned, obviously correct federal court ruling based on findings of fact that are exceedingly unlikely to be reversed,” [ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero] said in his letter. “Given these findings and the proper legal standard of review to be applied, there is no reasonable argument for the constitutionality of the policy, and no reason for the government to appeal,” he said.
Generally, I believe that legislatively overturning anti-gay laws is preferable. But if that is not going to happen (because for the year and a half the Democrats had a filibuster-proof senate majority, they dithered), then the courts must be used to secure equality under the law. But when it comes to military discrimination, or the Defense of Marriage Act’s banning the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages that states have sanctioned, that’s not the view of this administration.