Last edited: December 06, 2004

Gay Veterans of War on Terrorism Sue Pentagon for Reinstatement

Gay Financial Network, December 6, 2004

A gay military advocacy group filed suit on Monday on behalf of 12 lesbian and gay veterans seeking reinstatement in the U.S. Armed Forces. Each of the plaintiffs was discharged under the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on gay and lesbian military personnel. Each served during the current war on terror.

The case was filed in a district court in Massachusetts.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit represented by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, or SLDN, all served honorably in the United States Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard according to the suit.

“My grandfather fought in the Battle of the Bulge in WWII,” said former LTJG Jen Kopfstein, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. “I was on a ship which went out to sea on September 11, 2001, to defend the coast of California at a time when none of us knew if further attacks were imminent. I made a commitment to the Navy when I joined. I deserve the opportunity to live up to my commitment, and serve out the rest of my obligated time with honor, as I served the first part.”

C. Dixon Osburn, Executive Director of SLDN said, “‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ robs our nation of the talents and skills of thousands at a time when we can ill-afford to lose a single service member in the war on terrorism.”

Together, the plaintiffs in the case have served more than sixty-five years in the armed forces. Three have served in direct support of operations in the Middle East. Among them, they have earned more than five dozen awards, medals and commendations.

Today’s lawsuit asserts that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” punishes gay service members … for their sexual orientation and for their private, constitutionally protected conduct. As a result, it has denied and continues to deny them several Constitutional rights, including the right of privacy, equal protection of the law, and freedom of speech.”

“Last year, the Supreme Court, in Lawrence v. Texas, recognized that gays and lesbians have a fundamental right to privacy,” Osburn said. “Seventy-nine percent of Americans support allowing gays to serve openly, including a majority of junior enlisted personnel. Two retired generals and an admiral recently came out of the closet. There is no compelling reason for a continued ban on gay personnel in the world’s strongest military. It is unconstitutional and contrary to our national security interests.”

Among the plaintiffs named in today’s lawsuit are:

  • Former Navy Lieutenant Jenny Kopfstein. Kopfstein, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, patrolled the nation’s borders in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. LTJG Kopfstein’s command declined to discharge her for two years after learning she is a lesbian.

  • Former Army Sergeant First Class Stacy Vasquez. Vasquez served nearly ten years as an Army paralegal and was one of the top recruiters in the entire Army. Vasquez was discharged after being outed by a fellow service member’s wife.

  • Former Air Force Captain Monica Hill. Hill, a physician, was discharged after requesting a leave of absence to care for her terminally ill partner of 14 years, who died on September 11, 2001.

  • Former Air Force Sergeant David Hall. Hall, who served for five years as an enlisted member of the U.S. Air Force before joining the Air Force ROTC program at the University of Alaska, was ranked first in his ROTC class. After serving in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, Hall was fired when a fellow cadet and friend outed him to his command.

The plaintiffs are represented by SLDN and the law firm of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP.

The case filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts could eventually reach the United States Supreme Court.

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