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Judge dismisses challenge to military 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy

[JURIST] A federal judge in Boston Monday dismissed [ruling, PDF] a suit filed in 2004 by twelve members of the US armed forces [JURIST report] represented by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) [advocacy website] challenging the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy [Wikipedia backgrounder; SLDN timeline, PDF] requiring them to keep their sexual orientation secret or face discharge. The case was one of first impression for the US First Circuit [official website], but Judge George A. O’Toole Jr. [official profile] rejected the argument that the military policy violates the First Amendment [text] by denying service members their right to privacy, free speech, and equal protection under the law: “The fact that one might speak about one’s conduct, or one’s propensity or intention to engage in certain conduct, does not mean that a governmental regulation pertaining to the conduct is also an impermissible restriction on speaking about it.”

The Bush administration argued [JURIST report] that Congress’ approval of “don’t ask, don’t tell” was based on a recognition that the military requires policies not appropriate in civilian society and that the policy “rationally furthers the government’s interest in maintaining unit cohesion, reducing sexual tensions and promoting personal privacy.” The SLDN has not made a final decision whether to appeal the dismissal to the First Circuit but is reviewing all possible responses [press release]. Lawmakers in February 2005 cited a Government Accountability Office report [text, PDF] to criticize the policy [JURIST report] and its negative effect on recruitment and retention of military personnel. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” has been upheld by appeals courts in several other jurisdictions. AP has more.

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