Wednesday, March 14, 2007

First Circuit Hears 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Appeal

Source: Servicemembers Legal Defense Network
Date: March 7, 2007

BOSTON, March 7, 2007 -- The First Circuit heard oral arguments today in an appeal filed by veterans dismissed under the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual service members. The veterans, who all served during the current war on terror, asked the Court to reverse a lower court ruling dismissing their constitutional challenge to the law. The lawsuit, Cook v. Gates, was filed on behalf of the plaintiffs by Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) and the law firm of WilmerHale.

"When we began this journey in December 2004, we were determined to have our stories heard and to present the facts about 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' Today's hearing was an important step forward in that journey," the plaintiffs said in a statement issued today. "This morning, we have come to the First Circuit with unmovable confidence in our nation's promise of 'liberty and justice for all.' We believe the freedoms we defended as United States military personnel are alive and well in our country. We know our nation can do better than this law."

The twelve plaintiffs in Cook v. Gates are seeking reinstatement in the armed forces. Their lawsuit asserts that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" punishes lesbian, gay 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."

"There is no doubt in our mind that this law violates many of the core principles set forth in our constitution," said SLDN executive director C. Dixon Osburn. "Every day, lesbian, gay and bisexual service members are prohibited from simply identifying themselves as who they are. They are denied the fundamental right to privacy that every American should enjoy and they are set aside by our armed forces with a second class of citizenship. The freedoms they fight so hard for abroad are denied to them right here at home."

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit 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. Among them, they have earned more than five dozen awards, medals and commendations.

For more information on Cook v. Gates, including biographies of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, 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

CONTACT: Steve Ralls of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network,
202-328-3244, ext. 116,