WASHINGTON – A Republican homosexual rights group filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking to overturn the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy for gays in the military.
The policy, put into place in 1993 during the Clinton administration, allows gays and lesbians to serve so long as they do not disclose their sexual orientation nor engage in homosexual acts.
The Log Cabin Republicans (search) sued in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles asking for an injunction that would prevent the Pentagon from enforcing the policy. The suit nameg Cabin members serving in the military asked the group's leaders over the last four months to take legal action, said Marty Meekins (search), one of the group's attorneys. They did not come forward because of a specific incident but out of "fear of the military finding out their sexual orientation if they are gay and lesbian," said Meekins, who is based in Los Angeles.
The suit says the policy violates a soldier's constitutional right to due process, freedom of speech and equal protection.
Log Cabin officials say they are encouraged by the Supreme Court's 2003 decision to strike down a Texas law that made homosexual sex a crime.
In August, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (search), the nation's highest military court, ruled in the case of a former Air Force sergeant from Nebraska that the military's ban on sodomy was constitutional in certain circumstances. That court did not give a direct answer to the broader question of whether protections offered in the Supreme Court ruling also cover military personnel.
In response to the Log Cabin suit, Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke said the military implemented "don't ask, don't tell" because it was mandated by federal law. The 1993 law "would need to be changed to affect the department's policy."
Meekins denied that political motivations were behind the announcement, which came a day before a debate over domestic issues between President Bush and Democratic challenger John Kerry and three weeks before the presidential election.
"The decision to file the lawsuit doesn't have anything to do with any election," Log Cabin political director Christopher Barron said. "We are a nation fighting a war on terror, and we need a policy that protects our national security."
The Log Cabin Republicans backed Bush in 2000 but withheld an endorsement this year because of the president's support for amending the Constitution to ban gay marriage in the United States.