June 8th, 2009
11:46 AM ET
13 years ago

Justices throw out lawsuit over gays in the military law

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/04/22/scotus.reverse.discrimination/art.scotus.exterior.gi.jpg caption="There is no pending legislation in Congress to change or repeal the 'don't ask/ don't tell' law."]

WASHINGTON - A former Army captain who was dismissed under a federal law dealing with gays and lesbians in the military, lost his appeal at the Supreme Court Monday.

James Pietrangelo and 11 other veterans had sued the government over the "don't ask/ don't tell" law passed in 1993.

He was the only one who appealed to the high court, but the justices without comment refused to intervene.

The provision forbids those in the military from openly acknowledging or revealing their homosexuality, and prevents the government from asking individual soldiers and sailors about their sexual orientation.

The Obama administration had asked the high court not to take the case, and White House officials had said they would not object to homosexuals being kicked out of the armed services.

During the presidential campaign last year, Obama said he supported throwing out the federal law, but has taken no specific action on the controversy.

The Justice Department said in a high court filing the law was "rationally related to the government's legitimate interest in military discipline and cohesion."

A federal appeals court in Boston had ruled against Pietrangelo, essentially ending his legal efforts. But a San Francisco-based federal appeals court ruled partially in favor of Maj. Margaret Witt, allowing her lawsuit against the Pentagon to move ahead. Those judges said the Air Force must prove the dismissal of the flight nurse would ensure troop readiness and cohesion.

There is no pending legislation in Congress to change or repeal the "don't ask/ don't tell" law.

The current case is Pietrangelo v. Gates (08-824).

Filed under: Obama administration • Supreme Court
soundoff (159 Responses)
  1. Steve (the real one)

    @Just One Gay June 8th, 2009 12:56 pm ET
    "Carrying a wounded gay on your back?" lol Are we serious? I suppose next you'll be carrying a wounded black

    @Scared of my shadow June 8th, 2009 12:58 pm ET
    Black people make me uncomfortable. Let's kick them out. And so do redheads and left-handed people. You know who else makes me uncomfortable? BIGOTS! I hate showering with bigots
    I just love how the ignorant equate being black, red-headed, or left handed with being gay. Why is no one equating being gay to being white? Just a question!! Being black, red-headed or left handed is not an abomination! Homosexuality however is!! Every true Christain knows that!

    June 8, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  2. david

    served twice, as enlisted, in two different branches. was never allowed to shower with enlisted women or even be, quartered, in their barracks. would not like to be naked in the presence of homosexuals. would be acceptable if women, men, lesbians, gays were all allowed to be naked in each others presence, that would be fair. but if gays, of any gender, are going to serve openly, wonder if volunteers will increase or decrease? will separate quarters be available for lesbians, gay men, just as there is separation today for males/females?

    June 8, 2009 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  3. It's so cold in the D

    All jokes aside, the US military is not the forum to mandate the acceptance of alternative lifestyles. We are told when to wake up, what to wear, where to go, and what to do. This system works well and has made us the most disciplined and efficient servicemembers in the world. A persons sexual preference is their own business and right. However that does not mean that everyone withing our armed forces will accept these preferences. The choice to leave the don't ask, don't tell rule will likely help to suppress fratricide from soldiers that are not sympathetic to such lifestyles. Everyone should also remember that we soldiers count on each other for security, support, and welfare especially when deployed to the battlefield. We are obligated to trust those that we do not personally know or maybe don't even get along with. That obligation is tested when a soldier is forced to cooperate with a person with whom there may be a moral disagreement which results in soldier not properly fulfilling their duties. Why risk the conflict if we don't have to.

    June 8, 2009 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  4. max

    Homosexuality is not a religion, a race, or a creed. IT IS A BIRTH DEFECT. A birth defect caused by various reasons with variable results & is not reverseable or treatable. We must approach this from a very human standpoint. I feel sorry for individuals who feel threatened.

    June 8, 2009 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  5. Bite Me

    Sniffit, you are an idiot. Your argument regarding straight service members not having the discipline to stay focused on the mission is a double edged sword. If the homosexual member had discipline, then the rules laid out would be adhered to. You give up many freedoms when you serve in the military. If you cannot follow the rules, go away. It's that simple. If the gays were to "revolt", as suggested earlier, and reveal their sexual orientation, they will be delt with according to the guidelines set forth in the UCMJ.

    As far as everyone else being shocked at Obama's reversal on his campaign stance; get over it! He is the used car salesman and you bought the lemon! Everyone got swept up in the moment and did not do their research before pushing the button in the voting booth. Hopefully, the damage being caused can be limited until the next election so someone can be put in office to fix this mess!

    June 8, 2009 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  6. BBR

    Gays and lesbians are attracted to members of the same sex, right? So, is it appropriate to shower and use the bathroom while someone who is physically attracted to you is watching you? And if it is, why do we need separate showers and bathrooms for males and females? Isn't it the same thing? I would have no problem serving along side of someone, regardless of their sexual orientation. However, it seems that the above issue WOULD be a problem regarding cohesion, morale, etc., and it is something that I never hear discussed when this topic comes up. Is it somehow against the PC climate to ask the question?

    June 8, 2009 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  7. Buckie

    stovall said, "Gay people want too be treated equally, and they should however why do they feel they have to tell the world that there gay, I don't go tell everyone I'm straight."

    Every time you hold your wife's or girlfriend's hand in public, you tell the world you are straight. Every time you get married, you publicly declare to the entire world that you are straight. Every time you talk about your kids, you are telling people that you are straight. Anytime you tell your friends or co-workers about the great time you had on your date with your wife/gf the other night, you are telling people that you are straight....

    you are DEAD wrong, stovall... you make public declarations everyday about your sexuality. Your mindset was wrong... from the very beginning.

    June 8, 2009 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  8. AD MIL

    It is funny to read all these opinions of people who do not serve in the military, yet act like they understand how it operates. Folks, your soldiers, marines, seamen and airmen are not robots. Just becuase they signed up doesn't give our government the right to mistreat them in any manner. They are mostly 18-24 yo, who have deep emotions, and they are trying to do what is right everyday from an exceptionally demanding job. Just This law, a silly one at that, is keeping MANY of our best and brightest enlisted and officers from staying in for a career. Some of the smartest, hardest working and most dedicated military personnel are gay, and I have seen many get out because they were not able to have a stable relationship since they were always hiding it, and PCS's aren't easy either on couples. These are humans who deserve to have love in their lives just like everyone else. Sexual harassment, assault, or any other type of nonsense is not tolerated in the military if there is a good NCO or officer around. Changing the law will carry the same weight as it does today. As for Presidnet Obama, he wants to be reelected, so is it any surprise. Its politics, not religion – stop acting like he lied.

    June 8, 2009 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  9. Boytjie

    @ stovall: You are always asumed to be straight; everytime you talk about your wife or your girlfeind (assuming you are male), you are in fact 'telling'. Now please don't tell me that those in the millitary don't talk about wives and girflriedns... A gay person could not talk about his boyfriend because then he is telling.

    June 8, 2009 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
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