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

Justices throw out lawsuit over gays in the military law

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

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. The black spider

    Of course it make sense. Too many collective bathrooms in the millitary to let Gays Hang Around normal people in these bathrooms.
    They already fear the ennemy to also fear droping soaps in these bathrooms.

    June 8, 2009 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  2. Mike

    Wow...as a retired US Army Master Sergeant with over 21+ years in the military, I think this is a wrong message. Homosexuals have been serving with honor and distinction in the US military since it's inception. They have served in every Army since...well since there has been armies. To totally disenfranchise one group from serving their country is a great disservice to t hem an to the United States. I served proudly with several individuals that I knew were gay and/or lesbian and it never once bothered me. They didn't tell me what they did behind closed doors, and I didn't tell them what I did. For God's sake, people, this is the 21st century. I'm amazed that this current administration, with all of its hoopla and support from the gay community, did not lobby for this but rather against it. Weird

    June 8, 2009 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  3. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    As a veteran, I think don't ask/don't tell needs to be looked over carefully. If serving openly gay in the military, I'm concerned of a soldier's discipline deteriorizing. I think this is where the moral argument is. Although I've known gays who were in my unit, they didn't need to come out of the closet for me to know they gay.

    June 8, 2009 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  4. Mike

    To The Black Spider – Normal people???? Normal? Obviously you have not been in the military. The levels of degredation I've seen supposedly "normal" people do is astonishing to say the least. If an individual wants to serve our country, I will stand proudly by him or her regardless of theri sexual orientation.

    June 8, 2009 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  5. gary davis Harbor Oregon

    I shake my head and think here we are the 21st century. and still act like its midevel times and the church wants to burn people and the government won't take a stand .. give me a break . anyone who wants to be gay has the right to do so this is america and all of us have the right to do as the constitution says . and voting on someones right using a majority rule is a joke . its called human rights and I am amazed at how being gay or anything else efects any majority or minority in this country .. what is it if a gay person touches a christian they might get coodies or something else .. bunch of religious crap
    makes religion take a big step backward to stoning and burning.
    if there is a god ,I dought he or she would care what someone wants to be . and if the Bible was written to guide people then maybe these people should follow it . ( mind your own business and keep your nose out of other peoples personal life) 🙂

    June 8, 2009 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  6. Chi Town

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

    Shocker... another broken campaign promise... LOL

    June 8, 2009 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  7. history repeats

    wow this is a suprise coming from obama. i voted for him and i think hes doing good in some aspects, but i never understood his stance on gay marriage and now this. how can you discriminate against gays? gays have obviously been fighting along side us since the beginning why would we do this to them?

    June 8, 2009 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  8. Tony

    The law makes no sense. Gays are already serving. All the law does is punish them (and the country) for being honest about it. They're already sharing showers, so why is that an issue? Anyway I thought our soldiers were the bravest, toughest the world has ever known. I guess that toughness stops at the point of squeamishness over sharing a shower? Please.

    June 8, 2009 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  9. Boytjie

    Gays can serve in the military they just can't be open (and honest) about it. So they are in the bathrooms already. What do you think is better: knowing who is gay or not knowing.

    How would honesty be bad for discipline or morale?

    June 8, 2009 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  10. Chi Town

    gary davis Harbor Oregon

    The rule is just that... mind your own buisness. Don't ask... and Don't tell... Why you made it a Christian issue is beyond me... this was inacted by Bill Clinton... for military disipline/cost reasons. But hey... Hate away.

    June 8, 2009 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  11. David

    It's sad that so many people 'choose' to create an identity based on overt and 'in your face' sexual 'activity'. Maybe if they stopped trying to 'be' or create a lifestyle based on 'sex and sexual activity'....there wouldn't be an issue with the military or anywhere else.

    Who a person has sex with should have NOTHING to do with their military job PERIOD!. It's only when the person tries to BE their sexual activity, and make it 'who' they are, does it become a problem for everyone involved.

    June 8, 2009 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  12. Jeff

    I'm incredulous that the President would turn his back on the gay military personnel that are needed so badly.

    Decisions like this will come back to bite him when it comes to donations and votes. We're not a group to be toyed with and then discarded.

    June 8, 2009 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  13. Super D


    don't give me this 21st Century crapola. What in the 22nd Century it will be ok to be a pedofile?

    It's like this......its says "dont ask, dont tell" it's perfect. If you're gay and in the military, fine, we don't wanna hear it, shut your mouth.

    for gawds sakes, this is the Democrats rule anyway (Clinton).

    And lastly, always remember, just because YOU are YOU, doesn't mean I have to "tolerate" YOU.

    June 8, 2009 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  14. Kate in SW Fla

    The military is quite stressed right now, with even suicides at an all time high. This is no time to address this, and these activists should realize it. If they truly love the military, and love their country, they will put this stresser on hold. It will happen, but when we are able to do it in increments without freaking out the soldiers who oppose it.

    June 8, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  15. Obama Victim

    well Obama is against homosexual marriage.....and now supports this decision.....................and of you lefties feel betrayed??

    June 8, 2009 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  16. Nestor, Austin, TX

    I think the current policy works. I served in the Army for 8 years and had a few gay friends. I think if gays serve under the current policy there is no issue with that. But to serve openly gay will be: "Detrimental to good order and discipline". Not that the gays will be affecting good order and discipline, (though if someone like Perez Hilton enlisted, they would be a detriment) but you wouldn't let men and women shower together. In the same way most straight men will not feel comfortable showering with openly gay men, and many straight women feel the same. I'm not saying in the least that gays are sexual deviants, but there are just as many gay sexual deviants as straight sexual deviants. Again you don't let men and women shower together. It would be a detriment to unit morale and cohesion.

    June 8, 2009 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  17. skyhawkdriver

    I served in the u.s. Navy on active duty from 1975-1980 as an ABE on the uss america and uss nimitz...while on the nimitz on of my co-workers and closests friends was a gay man..no women on board ships back then..working in one of the most stressful and dangerous enviroments known we trusted each other with our lives..I couldn't have cared if he was gay or straight..what matters was doing our jobs and not getting blown overboard or killed during air ops..the military needs to get real and realize that what metters is the ability of a person to do their job..what they do on their own time away from the ship or duty station is their own buisness..the fact he was gay was his buisness..the fact I was straight was my buisness..not the militarys'..

    June 8, 2009 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  18. The black spider

    Thank you Botjie for understanding my post. I am not against gays serving in the millitary. There are citizen and patriots like any normal people and I salute their service but because of the dicipline that is required in the millitary it's better for each other not to know the sexual orientation of their collegues because they are so many collective bathrooms in the millitary. The fear of droping soap or caring a wounded gay on the back can be demoralizing. These brave men and women are already going through tough moral depravation to add this crap to it.
    Think about the consequenses.

    June 8, 2009 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  19. Boytjie

    People tend to forget that Clinton wanted to allow gays to serve openly but there was so much objection that he went for this bad law (it forces people to lie). Many of those who supported it back then no longer do so – and that includes top military brass.

    June 8, 2009 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  20. Obama, first non-US citizen President!

    Get rid of them. Very simple rule put in place by Bill Clinton (Another worthless Democrat), DON'T ASK, DON'T TELL. These guys knew the rules, and yet broke them and expected to be allowed too. If they are honored military personnel, then they understand rules and what happens if you break them. They broke them, and got booted. They got what they deserved.

    June 8, 2009 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  21. Fla.

    This ridiculous law needs to be changed now. Are you listening, Congress?!

    Many Americans couldn't care less about the orientation of a soldier if they want to volunteer their brave service to our country. Enough.

    Liberty & justice for ALL...

    June 8, 2009 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  22. Alan

    Finally, some common sense has prevailed!!

    June 8, 2009 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  23. David

    At least this gives every gay man and 'out' (no pun intended) if a draft is ever instated. I know I would NEVER serve under such circumstances–and I would expect any self respecting gay man or woman to leave the military immediately.

    June 8, 2009 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  24. Fast Fred

    1. people who have never served have no idea what they are talking about. They think that being in a combat platoon with someone is the same as work at Walmart with someone.

    2. if you can have openly gay men being bunked with straight men, and openly gay women bunked (for the never served bunked means share a bedroom and bathroom) with straight women. Then why seperate the genders? Why not mix gay women and straight men in rooms and bathrooms? what is the problem?

    June 8, 2009 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  25. Sniffit

    @ Boytjie, who asked "How would honesty be bad for discipline or morale?"

    Well, it's the typical GOP hypocrisy and double-speak. The reality is, all you have to do is look at the comments from some of the bigots on this board in order to understand why there would be discipline problems. Apparently, it's ok to be a bigot who would put aside your military duty to be rigidly disciplined, follow orders and respect, defend and work with your fellow soldiers. If it's not ok, there the discussion is over for opponents of getting rid of "don't ask/don't tell," because the only way they can justify their fear of openly gay people serving in the military is by basically making excuses for the bigotry.

    Fact: military commanders deal with all sorts of discipline problems, from domestic abuse to alcoholism to mental illness. It would NOT be difficult to train the bigotry out of someone in the military setting...bigotry is not a medical problem, it's an education problem, and as we're all well aware, boot camp is ALL about re-education into a new reality.

    June 8, 2009 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
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