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ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE First Legal Test Filed Against New Law, Regulations on Gays in Military; Court Schedules Hearing on Preliminary Injunction For Next Week For IMMEDIATE RELEASE Monday, March 7, 1994 NEW YORK -- Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union today filed suit in federal district court in Brooklyn, challenging the recently enacted federal law and Department of Defense regulations excluding lesbians and gay men from serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. The lawsuit, Able v. USA, was filed on behalf of six servicemembers, ranging from a lieutenant colonel to a petty officer and includes two active-duty service members who live in the federal judicial district covered by the court in Brooklyn. All of the plaintiffs wish to continue to serve their country, without fear of investigation or discharge based on their sexual orientation. In filing the claim today, Lambda and the ACLU seek to have both the new law and the final Department of Defense regulations, which were issued last week, found unconstitutional. (An earlier Lambda-ACLU case filed against the so-called "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy was withdrawn last Fall after Congress passed its law superseding President Clinton's policy.) "The central promise of our Constitution is that all Americans are guaranteed the right to be treated equally under the law; to be judged on the basis of their abilities rather than according to the prejudice of others," said William B. Rubenstein, Director of the ACLU's national Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. "Our goal is to force the government to safeguard that principle for lesbian and gay Americans." Beatrice Dohrn, Legal Director of Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, said: "Contrary to the government's characterizations, the new law and policy subject lesbians and gay service members to a system of rules under which they are punished for who they are. This in itself is antithetical to our Constitution." This morning -- after receiving assurances from the Justice Department that no action would be taken against the plaintiffs in the case -- Federal Judge Eugene Nickerson determined that a temporary restraining order against the government was not necessary. Judge Nickerson scheduled a hearing on the plaintiffs' request that a preliminary injunction be issued against the government for Friday, March 18. In papers filed with the Court today, the ACLU and Lambda say that the statute and regulations create a system under which all lesbian and gay service members are not judged on their fitness and ability to serve their country but instead are subject to discharge or denied entrance because of the perceived prejudices of others. The organizations argue that the statute and regulations violate the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause because they punish lesbian and gay servicemembers for engaging in speech or behavior that is otherwise completely permissible for heterosexual servicemembers. This distinction serves no legitimate and rational government or military interest, the plaintiffs claim, but is based solely on the prejudices and presumed prejudices of heterosexual service members and civilians. The papers argue further that the statute and regulations "burden, chill and circumscribe" all public and private speech that would tend to identify service members as lesbians or gay men in violation of the First Amendment. Similarly, the papers argue that the Act and regulations hinder the rights of gay and lesbian service members to expressive and intimate association. --endit-- ============================================================= ACLU Free Reading Room | A publications and information resource of the gopher:// | American Civil Liberties Union National Office | | "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty"


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