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Court declines ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ appeal

WASHINGTON (BP)–The Supreme Court has refused to accept a case regarding the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law on homosexuals in the military, renewing calls by foes of the policy for Congress and President Obama to rescind it.

The high court announced June 8 it would not review a 2008 decision by the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston that rejected a challenge of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” by service members discharged under the policy.

Congress passed in 1993 the ban on open homosexuals in the military that is known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and President Clinton signed it into law. Under the policy, the military doesn’t ask service members up front if they are homosexual, although the military can dismiss any service member who participates in homosexual acts or acknowledges being homosexual or bisexual.

While defenders of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law applauded the justices’ action, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) and other homosexual activist organizations said it demonstrated the need for action from Congress and the White House.

The high court’s denial of the case “now places greater pressure on the executive and legislative branches to get repeal of this discriminatory law done,” SLDA said in a written statement. “Right now, the best place to make our core argument — that openly gay and lesbian services members do NOT negatively impact unit cohesion, morale or good order — is in the political arena, i.e., in Congress and the White House.”

Obama advocated for overturning “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” during the 2008 election campaign but has not called for Congress to send him legislation to repeal the ban since taking office. Obama’s Justice Department, in fact, filed a brief with the Supreme Court saying the policy was “rationally related to the government’s legitimate interest in military discipline and cohesion.”

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council (FRC) described the Supreme Court’s order in the case as “the triumph of solid evidence and simple common sense over politically-driven extremism.” He is a former U.S. Marine.

“Military service is a privilege, not a right, and anything that detracts from the ability of our service personnel to fulfill their mission should be prohibited,” said Perkins, FRC’s president, in a written statement.

“We urge President Obama and Congress to also reject any administrative or legislative efforts that would overturn the existing law,” he said. “The military should not be used as a testing vehicle with which to implement liberal social policies.”

Perkins cited a 2008 survey by Military Times that found 58 percent of respondents on active duty opposed reversing the ban. The poll also showed 10 percent said they would not re-enlist and 14 percent said they would consider not re-enlisting if the ban were repealed. He previously told Baptist Press the policy makes common sense.

“Sometimes you’ll have 100, 500 or 1,000 soldiers, sailors or Marines together in a barracks or in a ship bay, all using the same showers and bathroom facilities,” he said. “When you introduce sexuality into that kind of environment, it begins to break down discipline and unit cohesion.”

In rejecting a challenge of the policy last June, the First Circuit said the law “is justified on a content-neutral, nonspeech basis; specifically, maintaining the military’s effectiveness as a fighting force.”

Opponents of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” have contended the case of former Air Force Maj. Margaret Witt before the Ninth Circuit has a better chance with the Supreme Court, according to The Washington Post.

The case denied June 8 was Pietrangelo v. Gates.
Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.

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