Pentagon Wants Gay Policy Suit
By Christopher Curtis
Network, February 8, 2005
SUMMARY: The Bush administration asked a federal court
to toss a lawsuit brought by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network
challenging the U.S. military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
The Bush administration asked a federal court on Monday
to toss a lawsuit challenging the U.S. military’s “don’t ask, don’t
In December, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN)
sued Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in the U.S. District Court for the
District of Massachusetts on behalf of 12 gay men and lesbians seeking
reinstatement in the U.S. armed forces.
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.”
The 11-year-old policy was designed as a compromise
between President Clinton and conservatives. Clinton had promised to allow gay
and lesbian soldiers to serve openly; conservatives said gays and lesbians
should not serve at all. Therefore, “don’t ask, don’t tell” allowed
gays and lesbians to serve as long as they did not reveal their sexual
While “don’t ask, don’t tell” has been upheld the
five times it’s been challenged in court, this latest suit, Cook v. Rumsfeld,
is the first challenge to the policy after the Supreme Court’s Lawrence v.
Texas ruling, which held that laws against homosexual sex were
Two other lawsuits challenging “don’t ask, don’t
tell” have been filed since Lawrence v. Texas. One was filed by the Log
Cabin Republicans; the other was filed by a former soldier seeking to recover
In Monday’s filing, the Department of Defense claimed
the Supreme Court’s ruling on Lawrence v. Texas does not undercut “don’t
ask, don’t tell.” In its motion requesting that the court dismiss the SLDN
lawsuit, the Department of Defense said, “These decisions are unaffected by
the Supreme Court’s decision.”
“I disagree with that,” said Mitchell Katine, one of
the attorneys who helped win Lawrence v. Texas.
“I think Lawrence v. Texas says that the government
cannot demean or criminalize people for sexual activity done at home. So
‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ goes directly against the Supreme Court
ruling,” Katine told the PlanetOut Network.
Steve Ralls, director of communications for SLDN, said he
was not surprised by the Bush administration’s response. “We firmly
believe we’re going to survive the motion to dismiss. We believe we are the
best challenge against ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ And we believe the
judge is going to move forward with the case.”
A Pentagon spokesman told Stars and Stripes, the
newspaper for the nation’s military, that the Defense Department does not
plan to budge on the gay ban.
“It’s in the best interest for the cohesion of the
force,” Army Lt. Col. Joseph Richard said. “Living conditions, especially
in combat operations, are often Spartan, primitive and characterized by forced
intimacy with little or no privacy, thereby creating an environment that is
But Stacy Vasquez, a former Army sergeant who was
discharged in August 2003 and is now suing the government, disagrees.
“I served 12 years with heterosexual people and it
worked just fine,” she told Stars and Stripes. “I don’t think it would
be a problem.”
Katine is certain that “don’t ask, don’t tell”
will be overturned—in this lawsuit, or another.
“The only question is when will this be reversed.
It’s like the marriage thing,” he said. “No one can stop the future from
coming. It’s just a matter of when.”
[Home] [News] [US Military]