November 14, 2006
Gay veterans challenge ‘don’t ask’

Associated Press

BOSTON — Twelve gay and lesbian veterans have appealed a federal judge’s decision to throw out a lawsuit in which they challenged the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network filed the appeal Tuesday in the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal in Boston, arguing the policy denies gays’ Constitutional rights to privacy, free speech and equal protection. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” prohibits the military from asking about the sexual orientation of service members but requires those who acknowledge being gay or engaging in homosexual activity to be discharged.

In April, U.S. District Judge George A. O’Toole threw out the lawsuit, ruling that Congress has the authority to establish the country’s military policy.

The 12 plaintiffs served in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard.

In their appeal, the plaintiffs argue, the policy “embodies a startling disconnect.”

“At a time when the military is experiencing well-documented recruiting difficulties, and has been reduced to bending the rules to fill its ranks ... the Armed Forces continue to discharge distinguished service members in substantial numbers simply because they are gay,” the appeal says.

The Bush administration has argued in court documents that the policy “rationally furthers the government’s interest in maintaining unit cohesion, reducing sexual tensions and promoting personal privacy.”

“Don’t ask, don’t tell” has been upheld by appeals courts in several other jurisdictions. The appeals court in Boston has never been asked to rule in a case involving the policy.