In 1996, a federal judge ruled that a law barring HIV-positive men and women from serving in the armed forces was unconstitutional. And the Clinton White House—no model of courage on gay issues (see: DOMA, DADT)—refused to appeal the court's decision. Here's what Jack Quinn, White House Counsel in 1996, had to say at the time about the Clinton administration's refusal to defend the law in court:

"Based on this advice from the Department of Defense and Joint Chiefs of Staff, and after consulting with the Department of Justice about the legal effect of that advice, the President concluded that the Dornan Amendment is unconstitutional. It arbitrarily discriminates and violates all notions of equal protection. Again, at the direction of the President, the Attorney General and the Department of Justice will decline to defend this provision in court. If the Congress chooses to defend this treatment of men and women in the military, it may do so. But this administration will not."

The Obama administration claims that it has no choice but to defend DOMA and DADT in court—despite the president's having stated that he views both laws as unjust and unconstitutional. Take it away, John:

This is exactly what we have been arguing for a year and a half, and what the Obama administration and its apologists have been denying: The President has the power to not appeal a case if he so chooses. We were told that simply wasn't an option, we were told that even if it were an option it certainly wouldn't apply to a case involving gays being kicked out of the military, and we were told that all hell would break loose if it ever happened, and now we find out that it didn't only happen, it happened on a case dealing with kicking gays (let's face it, back then HIV+ was code for "gay") out of the military, and all hell didn't break loose, a later Republican president didn't retaliate, and locusts didn't descend from on high.

Lots more background, lots more outrage, at Americablog.