Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

ABLE v. UNITED STATES

April 4, 1994

LIEUTENANT COLONEL JANE ABLE, PETTY OFFICER ROBERT HEIGL, FIRST LIEUTENANT KENNETH OSBORN, SERGEANT STEVEN SPENCER, LIEUTENANT RICHARD von WOHLD, and SEAMAN WERNER ZEHR, Plaintiffs,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, and WILLIAM J. PERRY, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE, in his official capacity, Defendants.


Nickerson


The opinion of the court was delivered by: EUGENE H. NICKERSON

NICKERSON, District Judge:

 Six plaintiffs, alleging they are lesbian and gay members of the United States Armed Services (the Services), brought this action against the United States and William J. Perry, Secretary of Defense, for (a) a declaration that Section 571 of the National Defense Authorization Act for the Fiscal Year 1994 (the Act), 10 U.S.C. § 654, concerning a new policy as to homosexuals, and Regulations issued under the Act, are invalid under the First and Fifth Amendments, and (b) an order enjoining the defendants from enforcing the Act and the Regulations.

 This action appears to be the first to challenge the new policy, which became effective February 28, 1994.

 This court has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1346. Venue lies in this district under 28 U.S.C. § 1391.

 Moving pursuant to Rule 65 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, plaintiffs ask the court to enjoin defendants pending resolution of the case from investigating, discharging, or taking other adverse action against plaintiffs because they have identified themselves as gay or lesbian.

 THE COMPLAINT

 The complaint states, in substance, the following.

 Each plaintiff is a lesbian or gay member of the Services who has served honorably for years. The Act and the Regulations violate plaintiffs' equal protection and free speech rights and impose on lesbians and gays punitive rules unrelated to fitness and ability to serve, rules promoting no legitimate military interest and based on presumed prejudices of heterosexual service members and civilians.

 THE ACT AND THE REGULATIONS

 The Act, 10 U.S.C. § 654, entitled Policy Concerning Homosexuality in the Armed Forces, contains in subsection (a) "findings" that, among other things, the prohibition against homosexual "conduct" is a long-standing and still necessary element of military law, and that the presence in the Services of persons who demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual "acts" would create an unacceptable risk to the standards of "good order" and "unit cohesion" essential to military capability.

 Subsection (b), setting forth the Act's policy, recites, in substance, that a member of the Services "shall be separated" from them if one or more of the following three findings is made:

 (1) The member is found to have engaged, attempted to engage, or solicited another to engage, in homosexual acts, unless the member has demonstrated, among other things, that he or she "does not have a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts."

 (2) The member "has stated that he or she is a homosexual or bisexual or words to that effect," unless "the member has demonstrated that he or she is not a person who engages in, attempts to engage in, has a propensity to engage in, or intends to engage in homosexual acts."

 (3) The member has married or attempted to marry someone of the same sex.

 Subsection (f) contains definitions. "Homosexual" includes "the terms 'gay' and 'lesbian'" and means a person who engages, attempts to engage, has a "propensity" to engage, or "intends" to engage, in homosexual acts. The term "homosexual act" means any bodily contact between members of the same sex to satisfy sexual desires or any such contact that a reasonable person would understand to "demonstrate a propensity" or "intent" to engage in such an act.

 The Act has no definition of the word "propensity."

 On December 21, 1993 the Secretary of Defense issued a memorandum concerning the implementation of the new policy stating that no one applying to become a member "will be asked about his or her sexual orientation," that "homosexual conduct may be a basis for rejection," and that the suitability of persons to serve will be based not on "sexual orientation" but on "homosexual acts" and "statements that reflect on intent or propensity to engage" in such acts.

 The Directives, 1332.14 and 1332.30, issued with the memorandum confirm that while "homosexual orientation is not a bar" to continued service, "homosexual conduct" is. Such conduct includes not merely homosexual "acts" but also "a statement by a member that demonstrates a propensity or intent to engage" in such acts. A member who "has made a statement" that he or she is a homosexual shall be separated unless the member demonstrates that he or she does not engage, or intend to engage, or have a "propensity" to engage in homosexual acts.

 Thus, as the Guidelines annexed to the Directive put it, a statement by a service member that he or she is a homosexual "creates a rebuttable presumption" that the member "engages in homosexual acts or has a propensity or intent to do so."

 While the word "propensity" is distinguished in the Act from "intent," it is not defined. The word is generally understood and defined to mean a "natural inclination" or an "innate or inherent tendency." Webster's Third New International Dictionary 1817 (1986); see also Random House Dictionary of the English Language 1152 (1966). "Innate" means "existing in one from birth" or "inborn." Random House at 733; see also Webster's at 1165.

 Neither the Act nor the Directives suggest how one who is born with an innate tendency, a "propensity," to commit a homosexual act can prove that he or she does not have such a propensity. To invite someone to prove that he or she does not have an inborn tendency seems like a hollow offer.

 The Directives state that "propensity" to engage homosexual conduct "means more than an abstract preference or desire to engage" in homosexual acts and "indicates a likelihood that a person engages in or will engage in" them. But the Guidelines make clear that the very statement of homosexual orientation establishes such a likelihood. The Guidelines treat as "homosexual conduct" not merely statements that in context may reasonably be considered as revelations of intent to or as invitations to engage in homosexual acts. The Guidelines go so far as to make any statement of homosexual orientation, wherever and whenever made in the past and to whatever person, even a statement to this court, as proof of an intent to engage in homosexual acts.

 Thus, "statements such as 'I am a homosexual,' 'I am gay,' 'I am a lesbian,' 'I have a homosexual orientation,' and the like" constitute "homosexual conduct." This is hardly consistent with the avowed policy of the Act that not "homosexual ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.