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American Civil Liberties Union
Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund
Lawsuit Challenges Clinton Policy on Gays, Lesbians in the Military;
Lambda, ACLU Act On Behalf of Seven Service Members
For IMMEDIATE RELEASE July 27, 1993
WASHINGTON -- Charging that it violates the most valued principles
embodied in the United States Constitution, Lambda Legal Defense and
Education Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union today filed a
lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the new Department of Defense
policy on lesbians and gay men.
The lawsuit, filed in federal District Court in the District of
Columbia on behalf of seven active-duty and reserve service members,
alleges that the new policy violates the First Amendment and Equal
Protection Clause to the U.S. Constitution as well as a section of the
Unified Code of Military Justice. The lawsuit names Secretary of Defense
Les Aspin as the defendant and asks the court to find the new policy
unconstitutional and to stop the Department of Defense from enforcing its
"The central promise of our Constitution is that American citizens
should be judged according to their abilities -- not their skin color,
their gender or their sexual orientation," said William B. Rubenstein,
Director of the ACLU's national Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. "We have
one simple goal with this lawsuit -- to force the military to safeguard
this principle for lesbians and gay Americans."
Kevin Cathcart, Executive Director of Lambda Legal Defense and
Education Fund, said: "There can be no compromise, no middle ground,
between civil rights and prejudice.
"Both President Clinton and Secretary Aspin have acknowledged that
lesbians and gay men serve with distinction in the military," Cathcart
said, "yet the new policy singles out lesbian and gay service members for
completely different treatment."
The plaintiffs in the ACLU-Lambda case range from a lieutenant
colonel to a petty officer and include one active-duty service member and
six reservists. Fearing that the use of their names in the court action
would endanger their military careers, two of the plaintiffs are going
forward under a pseudonym.
In papers filed with the Court today, the ACLU and Lambda say that
the military's policy recognizes that lesbians and gay men have long
served with distinction in the United States Armed Forces and that
"homosexual orientation is not a bar to service entry or continued
Nonetheless, the papers say, the new policy creates a system under
which all lesbian and gay service members "are not judged solely on their
fitness and ability to serve their country but, rather are subject to
discharge because of the perceived prejudices of others."
Further, the papers argue, that the new policy "proscribes and
chills" any public speech that would identify service members as lesbians
or gay men, in addition to hindering a "vast array" of private and/or
intimate speech and expressive conduct.
Lambda and the ACLU also argue that the new policy imposes a
"restrictive, confused and self-contradictory set of rules" on lesbian and
gay service members that are unrelated to fitness and ability to serve. In
addition, the court papers say that heterosexual service members are not
subject to the same rules -- a clear violation of the Constitution's Equal
"All our clients ask is to be allowed to be able to serve their
country without being forced to lie about who they are," Lambda's Cathcart
said. Added the ACLU's Rubenstein: "They seek to serve their country,
being judged only according to their ability."
"Once labelled as a lesbian or gay man, a service member loses the
right to be judged solely on her or his ability and fitness to serve and
becomes subject to punitive treatment, to which no heterosexual service
member would be subject," say the joint ACLU-Lambda papers.
"We are bringing this lawsuit because the Clinton policy does not
grant equality to lesbian and gay service members," Rubenstein of the ACLU
said. "We will challenge any policy -- from the Administration or Congress
-- that continues to perpetuate inequality."
Cathcart of Lambda added: "The courts have begun to recognize that
lesbian and gay service members deserve full constitutional protections.
We are confident that through this suit our clients and all other gay and
lesbian Americans will be given their right to serve."
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