VETERANS SEEK RE-INSTATMENT & END OF MILITARY’S BAN
BOSTON, MA – The federal First Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments on March 7 in Cook v. Gates (formerly Cook v. Rumsfeld), a constitutional challenge to the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual service members. The lawsuit, originally filed in December 2004 on behalf of veterans dismissed under the law, seeks the plaintiffs’ re-instatement in the armed forces and the end of the ban on open service. The plaintiffs are represented by Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) and the law firm of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP.
“We are looking forward to presenting our case to the First Circuit,” said Sharra E. Greer, director of law and policy for SLDN. “The men and women named in the lawsuit spent their military careers fighting for justice and equality, and their stories are a vivid reminder of why ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is not only unconscionable, but unconstitutional as well. We believe that, when the Court considers our arguments, these patriots will be granted their day in court.”
In April 2006, a District Court dismissed the plaintiffs’ lawsuit. That decision was appealed by the platiniffs and the March 7 hearing by the First Circuit will re-consider the lower court’s ruling. 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, the plaintiffs argue, it has denied and continues to deny them several constitutional rights, including the right to privacy, equal protection of the law, and freedom of speech. The challenge to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the plaintiffs’ appeal brief asserts, is “grounded in basic principles of identity, equality and freedom.”
The plaintiffs in Cook v. Gates all served honorably in the United States Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard. Together, they have served more than sixty-five years in the armed forces. Three have served in direct support of operations in the Middle East. Collectively, they have earned more than five dozen awards, medals and commendations.
“Our national security and our nation’s commitment to equality would be best served by allowing these brave men and women to return to duty,” said Greer. “We are confident in the strength of our case, and certain in the rightness of our cause.”
For more information, including briefs filed in the case and bios of the plaintiffs, visit www.sldn.org.