Last edited: July 10, 2005

Military Gay Ban Justified Federal Judge Told, July 8, 2005

By Margo Williams

BOSTON—Lawyers for the Bush administration asked a federal judge in Boston on Friday to dismiss a suit by 12 former members of the military seeking to have ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ struck down.

All 12 want to return to active duty.

The Pentagon, calling the suit frivolous and without merit, said that the ban on gays who are open about their sexuality does not violate their constitutional rights because they could still serve as long as they abstain from sex and do not disclose they are gay.

Only Congress has the power to change the rule, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Quinlivan told the court. He also said it had been proven that having openly gay people serving in the military would hurt unit cohesion although he offered no evidence to support the contention.

The 12 former officers are represented by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Fund.

The 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.”

Each of the 12 has served during the current war on terror in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard. In all, they have earned more than five dozen awards, medals and commendations.

“Our message, all along, has been simple: Let us serve,” the 12 said in a joint statement given to reporters.

“Military service should be based on capability and qualification, not prejudice and discrimination. The American people are better protected, more secure and free, when everyone who wants to contribute and is able to contribute can do so. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” weakens our national defense.”

Judge George A. O’Toole, Jr. is not expected to issue a ruling for several weeks on the government’s motion to dismiss the case.

Meanwhile decisions could come down at any time in two other cases involving ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’. One was brought in California by the Log Cabin Republicans, a political organization for gays. The other was filed in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, which generally deals with cases involving money. That plaintiff, who was separated from the Army, is seeking to recover his pension and is challenging the ban in the process.

“Americans do not care if the helicopter pilot crossing enemy lines to rescue their wounded son is gay, or if the medic assisting their daughter is a lesbian,” said C. Dixon Osburn, Executive Director, SLDN. “They care if we have skilled and able soldiers who will fight terrorism and protect our homeland.”

A recent poll taken for the Boston Globe showed that 79% of Americans now support gays serving openly in the military, up from 52% a decade ago. Additionally an Annenburg Foundation survey found that a majority of junior enlisted personnel now support gays serving openly in the military.

The SLDN said there are about 65,000 lesbian and gay Americans serving our country today, and one- million LGBT veterans.

Since 1993, more than 10,000 LGBT servicemembers have been fired because of “don’t ask, don’t tell” the organization said.

[Home] [World] [Nigeria]