6 challenge U.S. law, new Pentagon policy on gays

March 08, 1994|By Lyle Denniston | Lyle Denniston,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- Six gay and lesbian members of the military began a constitutional challenge yesterday to the new federal law and Pentagon rules that together will force most homosexuals out of the services.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Brooklyn, N.Y., three officers -- including a female lieutenant colonel who is the commander of an Army Reserve battalion -- and three enlisted men attacked the so-called "don't ask, don't tell, don't pursue" policy that emerged in a compromise between the Clinton administration and Congress.

Under a law passed by Congress last year and Pentagon rules that went into effect Feb. 28, members of the military who engage in homosexual sex or who say they are homosexual are to be discharged, unless they can prove that they are not gay or lesbian and have no desire to be.

The six challengers contended that the policy is an unconstitutional form of discrimination against those who consider themselves to be homosexual and in favor of those who prefer sex between men and women. They also argued that the policy's attack on those who merely say they are homosexual is an unconstitutional interference with the rights to speak freely and to associate with others in private life.

The Clinton congressional policy is designed to replace a half-century-old ban on homosexuals in uniform -- a policy that has been struck down in a series of recent federal court rulings. The lawsuit filed yesterday was the first to attempt to nullify the new policy.

The lieutenant colonel involved in the lawsuit remained anonymous, saying that she feared investigation and discharge under the new policy.

The others are an Army reserve first lieutenant in California, a Navy lieutenant in a reserve squadron in California, an active-duty Coast Guard corpsman in New York, an Army sergeant in a reserve hospital unit in Washington state and a Navy surface group seaman in New York.

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