A pro-homosexual Republican group filed suit yesterday, asking a federal District Court in Los Angeles to strike down the military’s ban on open homosexuality in the ranks.
The Log Cabin Republicans, who endorsed President Bush in 2000 but have withheld an endorsement this year, filed the suit less than three weeks before the Nov. 2 election but said politics had nothing to do with the timing.
A statement said the legal action would attempt to end the ban based on the Bill of Rights’ guarantees of free speech and equal protection. Pro-homosexual groups tried those same arguments in lawsuits during the 1990s, but failed.
The Log Cabin Republicans, however, said a renewed challenge is justified because the U.S. Supreme Court, in last year’s Lawrence v. Texas case, struck down state laws that made sodomy illegal. The lawsuit, the first of its kind since the Lawrence decision, is filed on behalf of unnamed homosexual military members, said Los Angeles lawyer Marty Meekins.
“Public opinion, the experience of our allies, and the national security interests of our nation all lead to the inescapable conclusion that gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve openly and honestly in our military,” said Log Cabin Executive Director Patrick Guerriero.
Mr. Bush backs the law that bans open homosexuality in the military and the policy that enforces it, known as “don’t ask, don’t tell,” which allows homosexuals to serve as long as they do not disclose their sexual preference or engage in homosexual conduct, which is prohibited by the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
The Lawrence decision did not nullify the military’s anti-sodomy law.
Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry supported lifting the ban outright in 1993, when President Clinton attempted to do just that. In the face of strenuous opposition from Democrats and Republicans, Mr. Clinton accepted the current policy, which retains the ban, but has ended the practice of asking prospective recruits if they are homosexual.
A number of pro-homosexual groups filed suit in the 1990s challenging the new policy on constitutional grounds. But federal appeals courts across the country dismissed all the suits, siding with the government’s long-standing argument that the military has wide latitude to impose its own rules of conduct.
Some legal analysts doubt the Lawrence decision will result in ending the ban on homosexuals.
“Lawrence v. Texas was in a civilian context,” said William Woodruff, a law professor at Campbell University School of Law in North Carolina. “It doesn’t address the unique nature of military service and all of those reasons that have been put forward to justify the ban.”
Mr. Woodruff, a former Army lawyer, said the Military Court of Appeals, the armed forces’ highest court, already has rejected an appeal of a sodomy conviction that cited the Lawrence decision.
The military bans open homosexuality on grounds it damages good order and discipline and harms unit cohesion.
The Log Cabin Republicans cited recent polls that it says show Americans are becoming more receptive to homosexuals openly serving in the military.
A Gallup Poll in January found that 79 percent of Americans favored lifting the ban. But in 1993, when Mr. Clinton’s move to lift the exclusion prompted spirited national debate, the public took a different view, with more than 60 percent favoring the prohibition.
Around the time of the Gallup poll, an Army Times poll of military members found that 50 percent supported the ban and only 25 percent said homosexuals should be allowed to serve openly.