Last edited: December 06, 2004

Ousted Gays Sue Military to Be Reinstated

By Christopher Curtis

PlanetOut Network, December 6, 2004

SUMMARY: The “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy of the U.S. armed forces is being challenged by 12 gay and lesbian former service members who were discharged because of their sexual orientation.

The “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy of the U.S. armed forces is being challenged by 12 gay and lesbian former service members who were kicked out of the military because their sexual orientation was discovered.

On Monday Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) filed a lawsuit, Cook v. Rumsfeld, in Boston on the soldiers’ behalf, seeking their reinstatement in the U.S. armed forces.

According to SLDN, the plaintiffs all served honorably, accumulating more than five dozen awards, medals and commendations.

“‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ creates an unacceptable and unconstitutional second class citizenship for our men and women in uniform,” said C. Dixon Osburn, executive director of SLDN, in a prepared statement. “This law 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.”

SLDN believes “don’t ask, don’t tell” should be overturned because it compromises several constitutional rights, “including the right of privacy, equal protection of the law and freedom of speech.”

Former Navy Lieutenant Jen Kopfstein, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, recalled her service: “I was on a ship which went out to sea on Sept. 11, 2001, to defend the coast of California at a time when none of us knew if further attacks were imminent,” she said.

“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,” Kopfstein added.

Other plantiffs include: former Army Sergeant First Class Stacy Vasquez, who was discharged after being outed by a fellow service member’s wife; former Air Force Captain Monica Hill, who was discharged after requesting a leave of absence to care for her terminally ill partner of 14 years; and former Air Force Sergeant David Hall who was fired when a fellow cadet and friend outed him to his command.

Osburn believes SLDN can help the former service men and women get reinstated.

“The world has changed during the past decade and since the last constitutional challenges to ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ were filed,” Osburn said, noting the Supreme Court, in Lawrence v. Texas, recognized that gays and lesbians have a fundamental right to privacy.

“Quite simply, there is no compelling reason for a continued ban on gay personnel in the world’s strongest military,” Osburn concluded. “It is unconstitutional and contrary to our national security interests.”

The Log Cabin Republicans have also filed a federal suit to challenge the military’s ban on openly gay service members. The suit was filed in October in California.

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