Three military veterans who were discharged under the law that prohibits gays from serving openly in uniform sued the government Monday to be reinstated and to pressure U.S. lawmakers to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" law before a new Congress is sworn in.
The lawsuit filed in federal district court in San Francisco also seeks to have the ban on openly gay troops declared unconstitutional and therefore unenforceable for any service members.
"I don't feel like I'm going up against the military, I really don't. I just feel like this is a necessary step for doing away with this policy," said former Air Force Staff Sergeant Anthony Loverde. "I believe the military, the majority of troops I've served with and those who have been studied to death are with us."
The 31-year-old Loverde is working in Iraq for a private military contractor that's providing the Army with technical support. The lawsuit was also filed on behalf of former Air Force Major Michael Almy, 40, and former Navy Petty Officer Second Class Jason Knight, 28.
The legal action comes four days after the U.S. Senate for the second time this year blocked a military spending bill that also would have repealed the 17-year-old ban on openly gay troops.
Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., have introduced a standalone measure, but it's uncertain if it will be brought for a vote before the Senate and House adjourn for the holidays.
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network director Aubrey Sarvis said the case is meant as a warning to lawmakers that if they don't act to repeal "don't ask, don't tell," the courts could step in and order an integration timetable that is less to the Pentagon's liking.
"This filing is a notice to the Senate and to the U.S. government that if the Senate fails to act in the lame duck session, we are prepared to litigate this aggressively," said Sarvis, whose group coordinated the lawsuit and prepared it with lawyers from a private law firm.
"From my perspective, this is the first shot over the bow," she said.