Last edited: December 06, 2004

Gay Vets Sue for Reinstatement, December 6, 2004

By Michael J. Meade Boston Bureau

Boston, Massachusetts—Twelve lesbian and gay veterans Monday morning filed suit in Federal Court in Boston seeking reinstatement in the Armed Forces.

All 12 had been discharged under the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on gays in the military. Each served during the current war on terror. Their case could eventually reach the United States Supreme Court.

The veterans are represented by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. They all served honorably in the United States Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard, C. Dixon Osburn, Executive Director of SLDN noted.

Together, they 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.

“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.”

Another of the plaintiffs, Justin Peacock, a former Coast Guard boatswain’s mate, was kicked out of the service after someone reported he was seen holding hands with another man.

Former Army Sergeant First Class Stacy 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. Air Force Captain Monica 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.

Today’s lawsuit asserts that “‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ punishes gay, lesbian and bisexual 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.”

Other courts have upheld the 11-year-old policy, but Osburn said those decisions came prior to the 2003 Supreme Court ruling that struck down the Texas sodomy law declaring gays and lesbians have a right to due process under the Constitution. “‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ creates an unacceptable and unconstitutional second class citizenship for our men and women in uniform,” said Osburn. “Forcing gays into a federally imposed closet and firing them for telling the truth is blatantly wrong. 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.”

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