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. gram

    Too bad Obama and his cronies are so afraid that they can't keep their promises...or is he too busy touring the world to take care of matters other than the economy here at home....and that is still not under control. Anyone who wants to serve should be allowed to do so...Is the top brass afraid that the gay and lesbians might just be abit more respectful to others than all the men who've abused women military?

    June 8, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  2. history repeats

    Nestor, Austin, TX

    actually you are 100% wrong. there have been numerous studies on the effects of gays in the military and they have shown there is no effect on the moral or functioning of the unit. many units have openly gay soldiers, but they dont rat on their fellow soldiers who have been doing a good job protecting them! i know plenty of people in the army and marines and they all knew gay soldiers in their units and they didnt care at all.

    June 8, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  3. Sam Ellison

    I’d withhold judgment on Obama a little longer – he has a knack of doing the right thing at the right time, even if he catches a little political flak before he acts.

    Right now he’s got a lot in his plate – the Middle East, Iran and North Korea, Healthcare, and of course the economy… these are big issues that require enormous political capital to work through. And like it or not, LGBT issues are not a major political force at this point in history. I believe he’s blocking the SCOTUS battle because he can’t afford to waste capital on a culture war right now.

    Give him time. Before the four (or eight) years are through, gays will be serving openly and gay marriage will be Federally protected. God willing…

    June 8, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  4. Johnson somewhere in FL

    The President asked the SC not to hear this case because he is developing his policy to present via executive order. He will address it and it will do away with dont ask dont tell.

    June 8, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  5. Cincinnatian

    how disappointing...especially since obama campaigned to overturn this policy.

    gay men and women are not a threat to straight men and women – in the military or elsewhere. comments that argue otherwise only highlight the misunderstanding that exists, and is even promoted, within our society.

    the good news is that the younger generation is not as fearful and paranoid as the older generations. equality and justice is on the way – one baby step at a time.

    June 8, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  6. Boytjie

    @ Nestor:

    "If you are in the military you give up some of your freedoms."

    I agree, but gays have to give up a freedom that heterosexuals don't have to give up: to be honest about themselves. That's discrimination.

    "I layed out why it's detremental to unit morale and cohesion. "

    You have stated it, you have not laid out anything!

    There are many gays that have – and are still – serving in units (even in combat) where everyboody knows they are gay and they don't have any problems with it.

    Why don't you actually lay out some facts, and not the usual sexual fantasy/fear of dropping soan in the showers?

    " If the military wasn't effective, we'd be overrun by Radical Islamists and there would be no openly gay individuals anywhere in America."

    Funny how you would support the expulsion of so many gay Arabic translators during a time or war. Just where are your priorities?

    June 8, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  7. Jean

    Bi,straight, gay and all do it with consenting adults.
    I don't want to know anyone's sexual preferences including ANY position. If you talk about it and I tell you I don't want to hear it, it is over.
    When did people become idiots with no choice to tell someone I don't want to hear about it.
    It happens in the work place all the time and we have HAD gays, straights, bisexuals for thousands of years in the military.
    Since when did the people of the USA become helpless.
    Maybe the USA is in more trouble than I thought.

    June 8, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  8. panem et circenses

    @ Just one Gay

    "But other than "not being murdered" what has this country ever done for us? Near as I can tell, we're a second-class group of folks living under taxation without representation. We're mocked, persecuted, and denied basic civil rights."


    Yeah, it must be really hard to be denied basic civil rights like ... what exactly are you denied? Uh...Nothing.

    You are not denied housing because you are gay, but your neighbors might not like you French kissing your boyfriend at the community pool just like they wouldn't like you French kissing your girlfriend at the community pool if you are straight.

    You are not denied employement because you are gay, but you might be fired if your in-your-face gayness makes your coworkers dislike working with you or makes the customers uncomfortable and they leave. Just like any arsehole might be fired for being unable to get along with the rest of the team or running off customers.

    You are not denied representation. You have a vote regardless of how gay you act.

    Pa-leese. Get therapy and get over yourself. If you think you are mocked just watch TV or movies and look at how people from the South are typified.

    June 8, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  9. Tim

    Another day, another campaign promise broken. The list of lies is growing. Truly disappointing. Obama is nothing special. Just a typical Democrat. Say one thing, do another.

    June 8, 2009 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  10. Boytjie

    carlo, don't flatter yourself: not every gay man is gawking at you in the showers (maybe none are).

    June 8, 2009 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  11. donttreadonme

    They knew going in what the military policy is and agreed to follow that policy. Now they are upset because they broke the agreement and are getting punished?

    June 8, 2009 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  12. donttreadonme

    Seems to me that the libs commenting here are trying to make this a left vs. right issue to try to gain momentum.

    The majority of elected dems believe that marriage is between a man and a woman as well.

    June 8, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  13. DJ

    and Carlo proves, once again, the arrogant ignorance of straight men who are think that all gay men want them. When are gays going to find a little self respect and just tell the US Military to piss off?

    June 8, 2009 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  14. John B. From New Hampshire

    Time to practice what you preach Mr. president! i voted for you and have been so proud thus-far with your leadership in looking for equal rights for ALL americans! this is a fundamental setp in that direction. you're acting like Bush here... DON'T!!

    June 8, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  15. nardofree va.

    when people compare being gay to black people, i didn't know that being black was the same as being homosexual. know one could possibly know that one was gay based upon the color of ones skin. what is openly gay? men are men and women are women. you serve your country as a man or woman, who cares if they're gay ? so i ask again, what is openly gay? gays are not an ethnic group.

    June 8, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  16. Ken in NY

    Women in the military are hurts military discipline and cohesion within any combat unit. The risk of female military personnel being captured and raped is great. Men within a combat unit do not need the distraction of serving along side female soldiers.

    Blacks were said to hurt military discipline and cohesion until the military realized who valuable their services were. Currently the military can not meet the demand for pursian translators. Stats will bear the facts that a majority of translators are homosexual. The war on terror does not care if the victims are straight or gay, so if the military truely wants to win this war they need to get it's act together and get over this. Military code of conduct is suffeient enough to keep cohesion within a unit.

    June 8, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  17. Danny E. Gonzalez

    This is the law of the land and it has passed the scrutiny of the Supreme court prior to today... that is why it was thrown out, the arguments were probably not enough to render the law un-applicable. this is not a reversal in campaign promises; this is the reality of a settled law, much like Roe Vs. Wade. unless the legislation does something different there is little military personnel with ambitions of disclosing their sexcual prefference can do.

    June 8, 2009 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  18. mrkusn

    This was a political decision. As Obama tries to govern from the center, the recent direction change in California on Prop 8 leaves him little wiggle room. Obama has never been a proponent for Gay Marriage. He supports civil unions and other Constitutionally given rights for couples in those unions, but he has always stated that gay marriage is a decision to be left up to the denominations that conduct marriages. Obama has been running for President in 2012 since January 20, 2009. You will see the true left-leaning Obama in 2012 to 2016 – if he even gets re-elected.

    June 8, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  19. Alex

    Great ruling. The law protects both the gays/lesbians as well as the military from unnecessary litigations based upon issues dealing with sexual orientation. Going around and proclaiming or querstioning sexual orientation has nothing to do with serving honorably in the military.

    June 8, 2009 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  20. nardofree va.

    people say we are not living in the stone ages anymore, this is true, but right was right then and wrong was wrong. people were murders and rapist then as well, do we want that to change as well? people are kicking and screaming about religion and christians or anyone who has morals. i happen to like the moral values of thou shall not kill, steal, bear false witness against my neighbour, what's wrong with these moral principles, are they wrong and out dated and was only for the stone ages as well?

    June 8, 2009 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  21. Scared of my own shadow


    1) Gay people already serve and are, therefore, already showering with their heterosexual counterparts.

    2) As a gay person with a lifetime of HS gym classes, gym locker rooms after work, and a million other experiences that bring me in daily contact with naked bodies, the last thing I am concentrating on in those instances are the bodies of those around me. In fact, I don't care to be naked around strangers, at all.

    So my question is... is it that you think gay people are less professional than other people? OR is it that you are so sexually fixated on other people's bodies that you assume gay people must be, too? Seems like your issues are within.

    Lastly, thanks for making my point. You said straight people being made uncomfortable by the presence of gay people is enough reason to banish them from the military. Well, how is that different than accusing any other minority of being perverted and unprofessional?Same argument was made against african americans in the military. No one wanted to shower with them either.

    June 8, 2009 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  22. Jane

    It's sad, I really thought Obama's understanding and intelligence went further than this.

    June 8, 2009 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  23. yuri

    Simply put- Don't ask/don't tell/don't sue policy may need aome tweakin'.

    June 8, 2009 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  24. RNC = DNC = politics as usual

    .....add this to the list of broken promises.

    You have been LIED TOO.

    Politcs as usual.

    June 8, 2009 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  25. Kirk

    Well I was going to through up a fuss about this but I don't think I could have said it any better than 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 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
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