Judge Hears Oral Arguments on Log Cabin's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Lawsuit
(Los Angeles, CA) – Judge George P. Schiavelli on Monday heard oral arguments in federal district court in Los Angeles on Log Cabin Republican's lawsuit challenging "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." The hour-long hearing provided both sides the opportunity to argue the government's motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
"The hearing was substantive and meaningful as both sides engaged in a spirited discussion about the core constitutional issues in this case," said Patrick Hunnius, partner at White & Case LLP. "Much of the hearing focused on whether the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas U.S. Supreme Court decision renders the Don't Ask, Don't Tell law unconstitutional."
"I was proud to be in the court room during oral arguments," said Log Cabin President Patrick Sammon. "Log Cabin is committed to pursuing this case on behalf of the courageous gay and lesbian Americans who risk their lives everyday to protect our freedom. We owe it to them to do all that we can to overturn Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
"As a former member of the U.S. Army discharged under 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' I was honored and humbled to be in the court room during oral arguments," said Alex Nicholson, a former member of the military named in the case. "The issues in this case deserve to have their day in court and I'm glad the process is moving forward."
Nicholson was discharged under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in 2002 after a fellow service member found out about his sexual orientation. He served as an interrogator in the U.S. Army with valuable language skills. Since leaving the Army, he has learned Arabic and would re-enlist if allowed.
Very little time during the hearing was devoted to the organizational standing issue that led to the initial dismissal of Log Cabin's suit last year. The judge gave no indication how soon he would issue his ruling on the government's motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
Log Cabin originally filed suit in the fall of 2004. In March 2006, the Judge ruled that Log Cabin had to provide the Court with the names of Log Cabin members who were impacted by the policy. In May 2006, Log Cabin re-filed its suit explicitly providing the Court with two injured members. One of those members is Alexander Nicholson, who was discharged from the Army because of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law. The second member is referred to as John Doe, and is currently serving in our armed forces. The case name is Log Cabin Republicans v. United States of America.
White & Case LLP, a global law firm, is representing the plaintiffs in this case on a pro bono basis.
Log Cabin isn't the only organization challenging this law in court. Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) filed suit on behalf of service members who were kicked out of the military because of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Last month, the First Circuit heard oral arguments on a motion to reverse a lower court ruling dismissing SLDN's Don't Ask, Don't Tell challenge, Cook v. Gates.
18-year Air Force veteran Margaret Witt, a highly decorated nurse, also filed suit challenging the law after she was discharged for being in a relationship with another woman. A District Court judge dismissed Witt v. United States Department of the Air Force, but the case is currently being appealed.