President Obama insists he is determined to repeal the federal law that requires lesbian and gay service members to remain silent about their sexual orientation on pain of discharge. Some — if by no means all — of the top Pentagon brass agree the law should go. So does the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Yet when the government’s lawyers appeared for a hearing in federal court in Riverside, Calif., on Feb. 18, it was to defend the so-called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law against a constitutional challenge — or at least argue for leaving it alone for now.

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