Last edited: July 10, 2005

Military’s Gay Ban Heads to Court, July 6, 2005

By Margo Williams

BOSTON—A federal judge in Boston will hear arguments Friday challenging “don’t ask, don’t tell”, the law banning gays from serving in the armed forces.

The suit says that the ban on serving openly in the military violates their constitutional rights. The Bush administration has asked the court to dismiss the suit.

The suit was filed last December by twelve lesbian and gay former servicemembers who were discharged under the law after they came out.

Each of the 12 has served during the current war on terror in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard, according to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network which is representing them.

In all, they have earned more than five dozen awards, medals and commendations.

“I felt like I was being forced to lie and having to be dishonest,” Jen Kopfstein one of the plaintiffs told the Associated Press. “I could never share anything about my family or my home life or even say what I did on the weekend. It is hurtful to do that.”

Finally she could not take it any more and wrote a letter to her commanding officer telling him she was a lesbian. She was subsequently discharged.

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.”

Other courts have upheld the 11-year-old policy, but 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. In its motion to quash the suit the Pentagon says that the sodomy ruling has no bearing on the case because the 12 could abstain from sexual activity and not reveal their sexuality.

The case could eventually reach the United States Supreme Court.

Two other lawsuits challenging the policy have been filed since the high court’s reversal.

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.

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