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. Says Cession

    It is perfectly understandable how people seem to be embracing the "morality" of homosexuality. Of course a generation ago, people knew the difference between right and wrong, and homosexuality was wrong. But the media blitz...movies, books, television, magazines, internet...that has worked dilligently to convince people that wrong is right has done its job. Homosexuality is now considered to be an alternative at worse. It took a lot of misinformation and out and out lies, but the media has done its job. Wrong has become acceptable. If you doubt this, take a critical look at movies. They almost all have a gay reference or character. Even little kids movies do. Star Trek was even approached by the gay activists and asked why there was no gay character in the movie. The gay activists are doing their job...tearing down morality and sealing the families fate. Will you do nothing?

    June 8, 2009 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  2. DJ

    What is it with straight guys ESPECIALLY military types that makes them so arrogant to think a gay man is checking them out in the shower. Get over yourself–most gay men find straight men repulsive. Seriously. Get over it.

    June 8, 2009 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  3. Nestor, Austin, TX


    Gays don't have to lie. It's don't ask, don't tell. Therefore, no one can ask a servicemember if they are gay. Where this becomes an issue is if the servicemember brings it up, or if it is part of an investigation due to other disciplinary action.

    June 8, 2009 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  4. Sniffit

    @ the black spider, who said "The fear of droping soap or caring a wounded gay on the back can be demoralizing."

    Then I'll give you one guess who shouldn't be serving. Is it

    a. The homosexual person who was wounded in combat; or

    b. The straight guy who can't properly do his duty because of his own personal stereotypes, prejudices and insecurities?


    June 8, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  5. John

    O'Bushma strikes again!

    June 8, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  6. Louisiana Man

    The Obama adminstration asked the Supreme Court to not hear this case.

    Is this not an act of invasion into the rights of an American citizen?

    Shame on the White House. If the Supreme Court does or does not want to hear a case ..... let that be the decision of the Court, NOT
    the Obama administration.

    Un-American act!

    June 8, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  7. jc

    It's so incredible to me that people believe a gay man or woman in the military is just trying to flaunt their lifestyle. I know if I were in the military and I was in danger of being killed in duty, I would want to do with openly. How many men and women in the military must talk about their husbands and wives back home? Is it so selfish for a gay individual want to be able to talk about their loved one without the risk of persecution? It's also ridiculous because so many heterosexual men and woman, even posting hateful comments, are blindly ignorant at just how much they flaunt their own sexuality, lifestyle and their chauvinism.

    June 8, 2009 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  8. Sniffit

    @ Says Cession, who asked "Will you do nothing?"

    Nope. I'll continue to speak out against idiocy like your post.

    June 8, 2009 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  9. Boytjie

    @ David: No, it gives ANY man an out if the draft is reinstated. Suddenly the percentage of gay men in the population will sky rocket!

    A Fast Fred: How is the American military different from the most of the Western world's where gays servie openly?

    June 8, 2009 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  10. Mike

    Hester – Your commenr from the UCMJ "Detrimental to good order and discipline". How do you feel about enlisted, NCOs, Officers going out and getting drunk, going to strip clubs, having affairs, breaking marriage vows, getting into overwhelming debt, etc. All of these and more can be detriment to the good order and discipline. When was the last time you saw anyone kicked out for being with a hooker overseas while their wife stayed back in the states?

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

    @ Fast Fred, who asked "Then why seperate the genders?"

    Gender and sexual orientation are not the same thing. If they were, we wouldn't be having this discussion because the bigots would have nothing to latch onto. There are quite obvious differences between the genders that prevent what you suggest.

    June 8, 2009 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  12. history repeats

    to be honest though all the patriotism talk the right-wing talks they should be defending the gays that have anough courage to protect this nation right? its crazy how the same people that "support our troops" will not support the gay ones. this is a CAPTAIN they are talking about in this article. he was protecting america as a career. where does the respect go? and how real is it when they can just turn it off because that person doesnt live the same way that the, so-called "christians" do?

    June 8, 2009 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  13. al in memphis

    I thought the military was about weapons, discipline, and people fcousing on decisions with lives at risk. What does that have to do with the need to openly express sexuality - hetrosexual or homosexual.

    Freedom to do privately is different from having people accept personal sexual preference. We all have a right to make personal, private choices - no more, no less.

    June 8, 2009 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  14. CJ in FL

    It's comfy to say what should and shouldn't be done when you're not the commander who has to deal with the fallout.

    June 8, 2009 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  15. Terry from Texas

    1. This is not a big issue. Gays are obviously discriminated against in some areas and laws guaranteeing their equality are inevitable. However, gays are able to find jobs, go to college, generate high personal incomes, and live pretty much where they want to. They are rarely targets of violence. They are frequently Conservative in their opinions on every issue except the ones that concern them. I have no sympathy for a gay Conservative.

    2. There are many sub-populations that are suffering more and deserve more immediate attention (and gays are among all of them): children, elderly, those with chronic diseases, the handicapped, those without health insurance, and the unemployed. There are many issues that are much more urgent: global warming, terrorism, pandemic diseases, the deficit, the national debt, etc.

    3. The leaders who assured us that they are ready to make the hard decisions are playing hot potato with this one. No branch of government wants to take on this issue – and lose the next election.

    June 8, 2009 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  16. Tony

    Obama asked the Supreme Court to not look into this case because he's not going to do anything about it. Luckily, the Supreme Court doesn't answer to them so they did what they thought was best. Well, they don't answer to him YET... a few judicial activist appointments down the road and we'll see.

    June 8, 2009 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  17. Boytjie

    @ Nestor: Gays have to lie about their very being when they have to hide such a big part of themselves.

    Yes, they cannot be asked bluntly 'are you gay' and they may not say 'I am gay', but the day-to-day chats like 'what did you do last night?' or 'do you have a girlfriend?' forces them to lie. If they don't answer with a lie or don't answer at all, it is automatically assumed that they must be gay.

    Any woman in the military that doesn't reciprocate a man's advances, is automatically assumed to be a lesbian.

    June 8, 2009 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  18. Jon in CA

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

    LMAO – and all the little O'bots cheered wildly when Obama made such a bold statement during the campaign!

    Now (after he got your votes) he asks the Supreme Court NOT to take on this matter.


    June 8, 2009 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  19. Nestor, Austin, TX


    You addressed this to Fast Fred, but I'll answer. The US Military is more professional, disciplined, technically and tactically proficient, skilled and hardworking than any other nation's military I've seen, and I've been in many multinational operations.

    June 8, 2009 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  20. CJ in FL

    Boytjie: "A Fast Fred: How is the American military different from the most of the Western world's where gays servie openly?"

    I can only assume you're talking about the myriad of militaries in Europe that allow openly gay people. Just remember...it's easy to experiment with your military when someone else is providing the lion's share of your defense.

    If our European allies were on there own, would they have engaged in the same social experimentation?

    June 8, 2009 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  21. Ron In California

    Fred,,,could not agree more. Those who have not served don't get it and will never get it. Serving in a military unit is not the same as working in civilain life. Having served I can tell you in most of my fellow soldiers would not feel comfortable with openly gay soldiers. due to the close living quaters. When you make your sexual orientationa an issue....guess what it becomes an issue.

    It is best not to ask and not to tell.

    June 8, 2009 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  22. marcus

    obama is foolish to think that people who voted for him the first time will automatically vote for him the second.. i'm getting aggravated with him not doing in office what he said he'd do while running.. he should be PROMOTING this case be heard by the supreme court, NOT advising the court to NOT hear the case.. i hope he's not so arrogant as to think he can't lose in 3 years.. i might NOT vote republican, but i certainly have voted for 3rd parties, and have even NOT voted when there was NO candidate i was comfortable with.. a republican could win the next election just by obama making enough people like me unwilling to go out and vote for him again.. i voted for you to eliminate that silly "don't ask, don't tell" policy... NOT to perpetuate it... do your job !!!

    June 8, 2009 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  23. Boytjie

    @ Nestor: So you served with multinational forces where gays serve openly. It must have been a disater...

    June 8, 2009 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  24. Boytjie

    @ CJ in FL: Wow, I was not aware that the US provifding the lion's share of most Western counrties' defense...

    June 8, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
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