The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear a challenge to the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that bars gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military.
The nation's top court, without issuing comment, turned down an appeal from former Army Captain James Pietrangelo II, who was discharged in 2004 under the policy.
A federal court had earlier rejected a lawsuit, brought by the ex-army captain and 11 other veterans, over the constitutionality of the policy.
Enacted during the Clinton administration, the 1993 "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy prohibits commanding officers from asking service members about their sexual orientation and states that members of the military are not required to reveal their sexual orientation. The federal law also states, however, that service members will be discharged if they engage or solicit homosexual acts, identify themselves as a homosexual, and/or attempt to marry or marry a person of the same biological sex.
According to the statute enacting the policy, the Congress has found homosexuality to be incompatible with military service. Congressional findings stated that service in the military is a privilege and not a constitutional right and that homosexual acts would pose "an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability.
"Congress and the courts have long acknowledged that the military has the responsibility to focus on creating and preserving readiness," commented Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, who was among the many social conservatives who praised the Supreme Court's decision.
Many, including Perkins, support the rationale that national security should come first before political demands of an insistent minority.
"Military service is a privilege, not a right, and anything that detracts from the ability of our service personnel to fulfill their mission should be prohibited," stated Perkins, who called Monday's decision a "triumph of solid evidence and simple common sense over politically-driven extremism."
"The sexual tension that would be introduced by forced cohabition with homosexuals indisputably fits into that category," he added.
Matt Barber, director of Cultural Affairs with both Liberty Counsel and Liberty Alliance Action, meanwhile interpreted the Supreme Court's decision as a "military victory."
"The military is no place for such radical social experimentation; especially during a time of war," Barber said in a statement. "As polls continue to prove, the vast majority of military leaders and personnel agree. It has long been established that to enlist those who define themselves as 'gay' or 'lesbian' would both disrupt unit cohesion and harm troop morale."
Barber said he was speaking from personal experience after serving 12 years in the Army National Guard.
He said that a lengthy investigation over the discharge of a gay service member during basic training was a tremendous distraction for his platoon. Troops were pulled away from their regular training to answer questions about a young man who was eventually discharged after making unwanted advances toward other soldiers and for inappropriately touching several while they slept in the barracks.
"This incident most definitely disrupted unit cohesion and harmed troop morale," said Barber.
Pietrangelo, who was in the Vermont National Guard when he was dismissed, however said the Supreme Court "got it wrong."
"It's nothing short of rubber stamping legalized discrimination, the same way Nazi Germany legalized discrimination against Jews," said the ex-army captain, according to The Associated Press.
But Barber said there is a difference between people who choose to lead a homosexual lifestyle and people with immutable characteristics.
"This decision by the Supreme Court should once again remind everyone that ... homosexual temptation and the destructive but changeable homosexual lifestyle must not be confused with neutral and immutable characteristics such as race or gender for purposes of assigning special government minority status or protections," he said.
"It is properly illegal, for instance, to ban African-Americans from serving in the armed forces. It is neither illegal nor discriminatory, however, to disallow an African-American who 'loudly and proudly' chooses to engage in distractive, destructive and deviant sexual behaviors," explained Barber.
President Barack Obama has indicated his support for the overturning of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military. The president recently renewed his commitment toward ending the policy in a proclamation on The White House's Web site declaring June as "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month."
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, however, said that although the president is committed to ending the military ban, he would first focus on the economy.
Legislation to repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, meanwhile, has been introduced in Congress.
In response, a distinguished group of retired officers, Flag & General Officers for the Military, recently sent a letter to Obama, warning that overturning the ban would undermine recruiting and retention. The letter was signed by more than 1,000 retired military officers, including 47 four-star generals and admirals.