Last edited: July 10, 2005

Boston Court Hears Oral Arguments in ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Challenge

Boston Court Hears Oral Arguments in Federal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Court Challenge; Statements by SLDN, Plaintiffs in Cook V. Rumsfeld Lawsuit

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, July 8, 2005
Contact: Steve Ralls 202-328-3244 ext. 116, sralls(At)

BOSTON—Oral arguments were held this morning in Cook v. Rumsfeld, a constitutional court challenge to ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ filed by Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) in December. Judge George A. O’Toole, Jr., heard arguments regarding the government’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed on behalf of twelve former service members discharged under the military’s gay ban. The plaintiffs are represented by SLDN and the law offices of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP.

SLDN and the plaintiffs issued the following statements following this morning’s arguments—

Statement of C. Dixon Osburn, Executive Director, SLDN:

“We are here today to honor the one million gay veterans living in the United States, and the 65,000 gay and lesbian service members currently fighting for our freedom so that we can sleep a little bit more safely at night. I want to thank Megan Dresch, one of the plaintiffs in our lawsuit, for joining us here today.

“This morning, the court heard arguments on the government’s motion to dismiss in Cook v. Rumsfeld. We believe it is a strong case that deserves to be heard and we are pleased to have had the opportunity to present our arguments to the court. We believe that ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is an unconstitutional law that harms our military and our national security.

“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. They care if we have skilled and able soldiers who will fight terrorism and protect our homeland.

“According to The Boston Globe, 79 percent of Americans now support gays serving openly in the military, up from 52 percent a decade ago. According to the Annenburg Foundation, a majority of junior enlisted personnel now support gays serving openly in the military.

“An increasing number of senior military leaders have also called for repeal, like General Wesley Clark, General Claudia Kennedy, General Pat Foote and Admiral John Hutson. According to United Press International, Army and Marine Corps officials inside the Pentagon have said the services are open to revisiting ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’

“Our troops are serving alongside openly gay agents of the CIA and FBI, as well as gay service members from our foreign allies. Twenty-five countries have lifted their bans, including Israel, Canada, and every member of the E.U., including Great Britain.

“Yet, the Pentagon has discharged more than 10,0000 service members for being gay in the past decade at accost of $190 million, and at a time when the military is not meeting its recruiting goals.

“Together, the plaintiffs in SLDN’s lawsuit have served more than 65 years in the armed forces. They have earned more than five dozen awards, medals and commendations. They have each served our country during the war on terror. They are precisely the kind of Americans our military should be embracing: qualified, patriotic and eager to serve.

“Perhaps slowly, but always surely, justice moves us forward and knocks down the barriers to opportunity and fairness. We are here to pay witness to the struggle of lesbian, gay, and bisexual Americans who seek a level playing field and a fair shake. When we achieve that day, we can all sleep more safely, secure in the knowledge that the armed forces has the best and brightest defending our nation. Justice serves our national interest, and the freedom to serve is an American ideal we must never abandon.”

Statement of the Plaintiffs in Cook v. Rumsfeld:

“This morning, we had the opportunity to ask the court to hear why our lawsuit should continue and the government’s motion to dismiss should be denied. This is an important first step in opening a new road. We are proud to be part of the movement to end discrimination in our armed forces. We are grateful for the legal counsel and representation of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and the law firm of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP.

“Our message, all along, has been simple: Let us serve. 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.

“Today, our armed forces face historic struggles. Struggles in recruitment. Struggles in retention. Struggles in attracting the best and brightest our nation has to offer. Struggles in the war zone and struggles on the home front. Yet the services continue to turn away those who want to serve, who are qualified to serve and, in many cases like our own, those who already have served with honor and integrity.

“From the Revolutionary War to the war on terror, lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans have answered the call to duty. Today, we simply ask that we be allowed to do so while remaining true to who we are and honest about our lives. Freedom calls for nothing less.”

For more information on Cook v. Rumsfeld and today’s oral arguments, please visit

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network is a national, non-profit legal services, watchdog and policy organization dedicated to ending discrimination against and harassment of military personnel affected by ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and related forms of intolerance. For more information, visit

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