[JURIST] Three former service members discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) [10 USC § 654; JURIST news archive] filed a complaint [text, PDF] against the Department of Defense (DOD) [official website] Monday, seeking reinstatement and the declaration that their discharges under the statute, and the statute itself, are unconstitutional. The suit was filed by Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) [advocacy website] on behalf of Michael Almy, Anthony Loverde and Jason Knight in the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website]. All three received numerous military awards and decorations during their respective service and each would have continued to serve had they not been discharged under DADT. Knight, due to a bureaucratic error made on his discharge papers, was eligible for active duty recall and subsequently deployed to Kuwait, where he served as an openly homosexual man for over a year until he was discharged for a second time under the statute. In a statement [press release] made regarding the suit, SLDN’s Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis said:
This filing is a shot across the bow as we prepare to pursue and sustain an aggressive far reaching litigation strategy if the Senate fails to act this month to repeal the law. This dispute can be resolved by Congress or by the courts. With this filing we put Congress on notice that a cadre of service members and our national legal team stand ready to litigate strategically around the country. The plaintiffs are three service members who want to serve their country again. They represent some of our best and brightest who were fired because of who they are, despite their decorated records.
The military policy is highly controversial and its continued enforcement has been attacked on numerous fronts.
Last week, the US Senate [official website] failed to advance a vote on a bill [JURIST report] to repeal DADT. The Senate fell three votes short [roll call vote] of the 60 votes necessary to approve a cloture motion on a defense spending bill [S 3454 materials] that would include a provision for repeal. After the vote, Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME) [official websites] said they plan to introduce a separate piece of legislation [press release] to repeal the ban, but it appears unlikely that such a bill could pass before the end of the current legislative session. President Barack Obama [official website] expressed disappointment with the vote and called on Congress to continue to work toward repealing the ban. The Senate previously failed [JURIST report] to invoke cloture to repeal DADT in September. Since the enactment of DADT in 1993, approximately 13,000 servicemen and women have been discharged from the armed forces as a result of the policy.