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Groups object to lifting of 'don't ask, don't tell' injunction

By Ed O'Keefe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 26, 2010; A2

Legal wrangling over the future of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy continued Monday as the group suing to end it once again blasted the Obama administration's defense of the law and another gay rights organization indirectly linked the ban to a number of recent suicides among gay teenagers.

The Log Cabin Republicans, a gay-rights group that is challenging the constitutionality of the "don't ask, don't tell" law, filed papers Monday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in opposition to last week's decision by three of its judges to lift an injunction on the ban.

The LCR criticized the Obama administration's legal arguments in defense of an injunction and reiterated that the policy unfairly affects gay troops.

The Justice Department "does not even attempt to refute the fact that the constitutional rights of current and prospective gay and lesbian service members will continue to be violated during any stay," said Dan Woods, an attorney for the LCR. "It remains sad and disappointing that the government seeks to continue to enforce 'don't ask, don't tell' by its motion for a stay pending appeal, even as the president has repeatedly said that the policy 'weakens' our national security."

President Obama opposes the ban on gays serving openly in the military and wants Congress to repeal the law.

Representatives from gay rights groups will meet Tuesday with senior White House officials to discuss the future of efforts to repeal the gay ban, senior administration sources said.

Four gay rights groups - Servicemembers United, the University of California at Santa Barbara's Palm Center, Lambda Legal and the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network - filed amicus briefs Monday in support of the LCR. The groups represent gay men and lesbians fighting discrimination or have studied the issue of gays in the military.

Lambda Legal argued that the government's continued enforcement of the policy exacts a high toll on gay service members because they "must remain on constant high alert, self-policing every word, gesture, and glance that could arouse suspicion regarding their sexual orientation."

The policy is also indirectly impacting young gays and lesbians who face verbal or physical harassment for their sexual orientation, Lambda said.

"It is absurd to pretend that the staggering rates of suicide among gay and lesbian teens that have been recently reported magically sprang into existence, without any connection to what adults are saying and doing," said Peter Renn, a Lambda Legal lawyer.

"There's definitely a link between 'don't ask, don't tell' and gay suicides," agreed SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis. One of his group's clients under investigation for possibly violating the policy was placed on suicide watch last month, he said.

The Pentagon had no comment on the filings. The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment.

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