A national organization of gay Republicans filed suit in Los Angeles federal court Tuesday seeking to overturn the Defense Department's "don't ask, don't tell" policy governing homosexuals in the military.
The Log Cabin Republicans claim in their lawsuit that the policy violates the rights of gay service members to freedom of speech, due process and equal protection under the law.
Under "don't ask, don't tell," gays are allowed to serve in the military provided they do not disclose their sexual orientation and do not engage in homosexual conduct.
Since it was implemented by the Clinton administration in 1994, nearly 10,000 military personnel have been discharged for violating the policy, according to the lawsuit.
The suit seeks injunctions barring the government from enforcing the policy and a ruling that it is unconstitutional.
"Public opinion, the experience of our allies and the national security interests of our nation all lead to the inescapable conclusion that gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve openly and honestly in our military," Patrick Guerriero, the organization's executive director, said in a statement Tuesday.
In Washington, a spokesman said the Defense Department declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Though previous legal challenges have failed, the gay Republicans' suit says that any legal rationale for the policy has been undermined by recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions.
The lawsuit cites a Supreme Court ruling last year that gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to engage in private, intimate sexual conduct without interference by the state.
The lawsuit alleges that the policy has been applied more frequently in peacetime than during periods of armed conflict.
Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, it says, discharges of gay and lesbian military personnel have decreased by 40%.
The policy has also had a disproportionate impact on women in the armed forces, according to the suit.