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Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund
American Civil Liberties Union
Court Grants Preliminary Injunction on Gays in the Military;
Action Bars Government From Taking Action Against Servicemembers in Case
For IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 4, 1994
BROOKLYN -- A federal District Court today granted a preliminary
injunction preventing the government from discharging the six
servicemembers who filed suit challenging the recently enacted federal
law and the final Department of Defense regulations excluding lesbians and
gay men from serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. The Court's action
prevents the government from taking any discriminatory action until a
full hearing or trial and a final decision in the case. No trial date has
yet been set.
Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, a gay and lesbian civil
rights organization, and the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit in
federal district court in Brooklyn on March 7, 1994, challenging the
Clinton Administration's law and regulations as unconstitutional. The
statute and regulations deny equality to lesbians and gay men in the
services, Lambda and the ACLU say, while serving no legitimate government
Two days after the government learned that he was a plaintiff in the
case, Petty Officer Robert Heigl, on active duty in the Coast Guard, was
served with a notice of imminent discharge, but in an emergency hearing,
Judge Eugene Nickerson received assurance from the government that they
would not pursue the matter until the preliminary injunction hearing.
"Today's ruling guarantees that these six individuals will be able to
continue serving their country until we have the chance to prove that the
law and regulations are unconstitutional," said William B. Rubenstein,
Director of the ACLU's national Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. "And the
Court action today underscores that even openly gay and lesbian
servicemembers can perform their jobs without any injury to the
"By identifying themselves to challenge the constitutionality of the
policy, our clients have become subject to discipline and discharge,"
said Beatrice Dohrn, Legal Director of Lambda. "The government's actions
during the two weeks that this case has been pending demonstrated to the
court the reality of this policy."
The plaintiffs in Able v. USA range from a lieutenant colonel to a
petty officer and include two active-duty service members who live in the
federal judicial district covered by the court in Brooklyn.
Lambda and the ACLU say that the statute and regulations create an
elaborate system under which all lesbian and gay service members are not
judged on their fitness and ability to serve their country, but are
instead subject to discriminatory treatment because of the perceived
prejudice of others.
"The American public has been hoodwinked into believing that these
rules are somehow more 'relaxed' and fair than the old policy," said Ruth
E. Harlow, Associate Director of the ACLU's national Lesbian and Gay
"The truth," added Kevin Cathcart, Lambda's Executive Director, "is
that the law and regulations are more clearly than ever based entirely on
prejudice and therefore unconstitutional."
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