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. Darth Vadik, CA

    What a bunch of MORONS Roberts, Alito, Scalia and Thomas are.

    Real real morons.


    I really don't care what the Bible says, if you think it is "immoral" to be gay, then don't be one, but don't you dare take out your fear, bigotry and hate on a whole group of population.


    Any man that discriminates is ev*l in my book.
    You are the enemies of freedom,
    you are the opressors,
    you are the reason doctors get killed by loons.
    And you are the reason Bush can start an unprovoked war and be responsible for over half a million dead (by a low estimation).


    June 8, 2009 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  2. Dan, TX

    I am happy. There are sensible people and judges around. I hope Barack Obama gets some sense now.

    June 8, 2009 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  3. Dave From Philly

    Any man or woman willing to joint the military and defend this country is alright with me.

    I have never been in the armed services, so I don't know what it would be like to be in a situation where I dependent on another person to live.

    Just like men talking about women in the company of women could be a form of sexual harassment. The reverse must also be true.

    Don't Ask Don't Tell may not be a good policy, but until someone comes up with a way to address verbal sexual harassment that is the best policy.

    June 8, 2009 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  4. Jason

    Sad day in America. EVERYONE deserves equal rights.

    June 8, 2009 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  5. rodlang

    Obama and the dems will not touch this (or gay marraige) until after teh 2010 mid-term elections. I know you liberals think otherwise, but Obama is a politician. That means he also talks out of both sides of his mouth.

    June 8, 2009 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  6. Darth Vadik, CA

    Dont ask dont tell is a bunch of crap, the first thing they told us at MEPS here in LA as we were leaving to go to bootcamp was "if you are gay then please leave now."

    To this day I'm ashamed of that SSgt.

    Who cares about someone's sexual orientation, I always hear about straight men raping women, I cant remember last time I heard about some guy raping another guy.

    This bigoted behaviour, excused by some by using the bible is unexeptable, and mark my words, gays will be alowed to serve in the military, and in the near future too. They will be alowed to get married (and ruin all your straight marriages in the process – yeah right, see how ridiculous it sounds) one day too.

    And all of you who oppose it will feel the same way as those anit-integration idots do today.

    June 8, 2009 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  7. Tate

    He is destroying this country your kids are born with almost 100k in debt that has done nothing but increase unemployment and you are worried about gays in the military. Who are going to protect them, once we are a Muslim nation. I dont care what you are if you want to serve this country then you should be able to. Why is anybodyu suprised he has lied about everything he promised except spreading the wealth and taking care of the unions. Ask gm and chrysler dealerships.

    June 8, 2009 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  8. Imarriedmysister in TheOleSouth

    We won the election and beat back the redneck assault.

    June 8, 2009 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  9. randy in AZ

    What happened to separation of powers/ Since when does the Supreme Court have to do what the President wants them to do? They are responsible only to themselves.

    June 8, 2009 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  10. Tod

    Black Spider. you sound like one that would be standing around the bathrooms. In the closet???

    June 8, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  11. Gay Showers

    OK.... I am a veteran of the Persian Gulf War and I was active duty BEFORE don't ask don't tell. And yes, I am gay and I had to live a lie back in the day, otherwise I would have been ostracized by my unit and dishonorably discharged. Things have improved drastically under don't ask don't tell. But they can improve even more. Young people aren't as homophobic as they used to be. And as for the gay people in the shower – PLEEZE!.... I showered in gym class and after football practices when I was a horny teenager and it never occurred to me to do anything inappropriate to my teammates or classmates. Grow up people!!

    June 8, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  12. Thomas

    For a short time when I was in the military I was roommates with a homosexual when we both were living in the dorms.

    Never had any problems or concerns.

    June 8, 2009 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  13. Dan

    Obama is just scared of the political backlash I think if he had nothing on the line he would overturn Don't Ask Don't Tell

    June 8, 2009 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  14. kaydeedee

    This is another promise broken by the president I helped vote in. Very disappointing.

    June 8, 2009 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  15. pam Eugene OR

    Mr President.
    I supported you.
    I gave money to your campaign.
    I worked tirelessly for your election.
    I am heterosexual.
    You MUST intervene here and make this right. You promised to change "don't ask don't tell" and I believed you. You can fix this for now by simply applying a stop loss to force these valuable soldiers out of service.
    Please President Obama, do the right thing. Do what you promised!
    The Republicans can't hurt your chances for reelection but you can by not keeping your word. Your word is important Mr President.

    June 8, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  16. di

    i congratulate president OBAMA for great wisdom in allowing dont ask dont tell. this policy is very balanced for it guarantees freedom. firstly no one will ask you about being gay since its a distraction and you must not also tell it. its a brilliant policy. homosexualty is a great sin. it can lead to defeat in battle. if GOD curses an army you may have all the weapons but you will not win. All major religions are against it. america should not become a homosexual nation. lets remember SODOM AND GOMORRAH AND FEAR GOD. God bless president Obama for wisdom.

    June 8, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  17. Let's get back to the origins

    How would other nations look at and respect the American military if they didn't see dignity. I believe in order, respect, and discipline. I also believe living in the human body I was created to be in and not be oppositional to that creation.

    June 8, 2009 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  18. patNY

    I think this whole policy gives the gov't an "out" to having to pay retirement benefits to service men and women who for whatever reason, find themselves having to admit they are gay. Think about it. I'm a conspiracy theorist and think this has absolutely nothing to do with unit cohesion and morale and discipline...its all about $$$!

    June 8, 2009 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  19. SN in MN

    DJ says that "most gay men find straight men repulsive". Is that not an expression of bigotry?

    June 8, 2009 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  20. Steve (the real one)

    David June 8th, 2009 12:05 pm ET
    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.
    Well said! I fully agree. Gays are already serving. The problem is exactly what you stated, it's radical and "in your face"! Heterosexual adultery exists in the military too, if its "in your face", the adulterer is punished too! Real simple DON'T ASK, DON'T TELL!

    June 8, 2009 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  21. D. Tree

    The justices have abdicated on their responsibility. By dismissing without comment, they do themselves AND the constitution a disservice. Make a ruling for Gosh-sakes! Say something! But please don't act like you have no opinion on the matter – its CLEARLY a constitutional matter.

    June 8, 2009 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  22. sms29s

    Ouch, Scared of my Shadow. I am left-handed and my daughter is red-headed.

    June 8, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  23. stovall

    I don't agree that, this captain should be kicked out of the military. I feel that staight and gay she keep their sexual orientation private. It should be a don't ask don't tell homesexuals all people who serve, she be rspectful and keep their sexual oreintation to themselves. 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. Everyone needs to be treated in the USA equally thats just point blank. EQUALLY

    June 8, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  24. Peter E

    I have yet to decide whether to laugh at neocons more or liberals more. Obama hasn't changed a single policy from the Bush administration. He continues bank bailouts, he continues the wars, he continues the exact same policy in the Middle East, he continues the same tax breaks, he continues the same socially conservative agenda, he continues torture and secret prisons. Yet neocons somehow think Obama is implementing all new socialist policy that drastically weakens this country, while liberals praise Obama for his 'visionary' actions. Even his speeches are near-verbatim stolen from Bush! Where was the neocon criticism of Bush for the same policies, and why do they continue to make excuses for him? And where is the liberal outrage now for policies you cried bloody murder about before? Hypocrites!

    June 8, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  25. Melissa

    It figures. Unfortunately, until that law is repealed, there's little they can do. I'm so tired of Republican hatred.

    June 8, 2009 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
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