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Case challenging the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy


Servicemembers Legal Defense Network filed this challenge to the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” statute and regulations on behalf of 12 members of the Armed Forces who were discharged after serving honorably in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard. After the district court granted the government’s motion to dismiss upholding the policy, the plaintiffs appealed and Lambda Legal submitted a friend-of-the-court brief to the First Circuit court of Appeals in support of their appeal. Lambda Legal’s brief demonstrates that, because of the victory we achieved in Lawrence v. Texas, the government cannot demand that individuals completely sacrifice their constitutional right to sexual intimacy with a same-sex partner in order to serve in the armed forces.


Over the last 10 years the government on average has discharged more than 900 lesbian, gay and bisexual servicemembers annually under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. The military is the nation’s largest employer and its antigay policy destroys careers, wastes tax dollars, and deprives the nation of talented individuals who want to serve their country.

Lambda Legal’s Impact

Lambda Legal has worked for more than three decades to support the liberty interests and equal treatment of those who seek to serve in the military. This case highlights the unfairness of selectively telling only gay people that they cannot serve and have any sexual intimacy with their partners. Lambda Legal’s victory in the Lawrence case provides authoritative weight to our friend-of-the-court brief explaining the effect of that victory on the military’s policy.

    • December 2004 Servicemembers Legal Defense Network files suit in federal district court challenging the constitutionality of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” statute and regulations on behalf of 12 veterans discharged under the policy.
    • April 2006 District Court grants government’s motion to dismiss, rejecting constitutional challenge.
    • September 2006 District Court denies motion for reconsideration.
    • November 2006 After the plaintiffs appeal to the First Circuit Court of Appeals, Lambda Legal files amicus brief supporting reversal of the lower court decision.