Appeals Court Upholds Military Policy on Gays Homosexuals May Be Banned, Judges Say

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The first federal appeals court to rule on President Bill Clinton's "don't ask, don't tell" policy upheld the measure Friday, saying that openly gay service members may be banned from the armed services.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said it was the job of elected leaders, not the judiciary, to set military policy.

The court ruled 9-4 against former Lt. Paul Thomasson, 33, who was discharged from the Navy in June after giving a letter to his commander stating, "I am gay." "Some day, `equal justice under law' is going to apply to all Americans, even gays and lesbians," Thomasson said. He argued that the policy violated his constitutional rights, treating homosexuals unfairly by forcing them to keep quiet about their sexual orientation, suppressing free speech and violating basic guarantees of due process. Clinton's policy instructed the services how to implement legislation passed in 1993 that made law out of the longstanding policy by the armed forces to ban service members who show homosexual conduct, try to marry people of the same sex or even state that they are homosexual. "It was appropriate for Congress to believe that a military force should be as free as possible of sexual attachments and pressures as it prepared to do battle," wrote Chief Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III. "Any argument that Congress was misguided in this view is one of legislative policy, not constitutional law." Thomasson's attorney, Allan Baron Moore, said he had not decided whether to appeal. "Ultimately, the U. …