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U.S. Supreme Court won't hear "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" case
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U.S. Supreme Court won't hear "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" case

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Staff Writer

The U.S. Supreme Court turned down a challenge to the Defense Department policy forbidding Gays and Lesbians from serving openly in the military on June 8, granting a request by the Obama administration.

In court papers, the administration said the appeals court ruled correctly in this case when it found that 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' is 'rationally related to the government's legitimate interest in military discipline and unit cohesion.'

'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' requires the Defense Department to separate from the armed services members who engage in or attempt to engage in homosexual acts; state they are homosexual or Bisexual; or marry or attempt to marry a person of the same biological sex.

The case in question, Pietrangelo v. Gates, originally Cook v. Gates, was brought by 12 former members of the U.S. Military discharged under 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' The district court dismissed the suit for a failure to state a claim and the plaintiffs appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Last year, the appeals court affirmed the district court's ruling.

Army Capt. James Pietrangelo, one of the 12 named in the original lawsuit, on his own subsequently appealed his case to the U.S. Supreme Court by filing a petition for a writ of certiorari. This week, the Supreme Court refused to hear his case.

The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest LGBT civil rights organization, issued a statement Monday saying the Supreme Court's decision underscored the need for swift action by President Obama and Congress to repeal this discriminatory law.

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, an organization that provides legal council and funding to servicemembers being investigated under the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy, vowed to press ahead with efforts to reverse the policy.

'What happened today puts the ball back into the court of Congress and the White House to repeal the law, and that's where we think it should be right now,' said Kevin Nix, spokesman for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. Nix said there are no objective studies showing unit cohesion, morale and order are harmed by openly Gay people. It is estimated that 65,000 Gay men and women currently serve on active duty.

'Times have changed. & fast-forward 16 years,' Nix said. 'The servicemembers in Iraq and Afghanistan - their attitudes toward Gay people are very different than [the attitudes of] some retired generals in their 50s and 60s who served in the 20th century. It's a different world.'

Nix may be right. A 2009 Gallup Poll released June 8 shows conservatives shift in favor of openly Gay servicemembers, and weekly churchgoers also show a double-digit increase in support from 2004. According to the poll, Americans are six percentage points more likely than they were four years ago to favor allowing openly Gay men and Lesbian women to serve in the military, 69% to 63%. While liberals and Democrats remain the most supportive, the biggest increase in support has been among conservatives and weekly churchgoers - up 12 and 11 percentage points, respectively.

That essentially equates to repealing the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy.

During last year's campaign, President Barack Obama pledged to overturn the policy, but he has made no specific move to do so since taking office in January.

Meanwhile, the White House has said it will not stop Gays and Lesbians from being dismissed from the military - a direct contradiction to Obama's campaign promise.

To date, it is estimated that more than 12,500 service men and women have been discharged under the policy, including more than 200 since Obama took office.

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