Court Battles

LGBTQ advocacy group sues Pentagon, Army over ban on HIV-positive recruits

The Pentagon is seen in this aerial view made through an airplane window in Washington, Jan. 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

An LGBTQ advocacy group sued the Department of Defense and the Army on Thursday over a policy barring HIV-positive individuals from enlisting in the military.

Lambda Legal, a civil rights organization that focuses on the LGBTQ community and those living with HIV/AIDS, filed the lawsuit on behalf of several individuals it says either were denied entry into the Army over their HIV-positive status or left the Army following their diagnosis and are seeking to return.

The case follows a landmark ruling in April that ordered the Pentagon to end its practice of blocking enlisted service members from deploying outside the U.S. or being commissioned as officers.

The Pentagon adjusted its regulations in June to line up with the ruling. However, Lambda Legal is challenging the updated policies, which still bar those with HIV from initially joining the military.

“[The Pentagon’s] actions are incompatible with the same medical advancements that led this Court to permanently enjoin similar restrictions on those already serving,” the group argued.

HIV/AIDS treatment developed in the 1990s substantially decreased an HIV-positive individual’s viral load. As a result, the lawsuit asserts, the possibility of transmission is “likely eliminated entirely” in most contexts.

The group accused the Pentagon of “impermissibly” discriminating against people living with HIV, violating their right to equal protection under the Fifth Amendment.

“Medical science extinguishes any valid purpose for such disparate treatment,” Lambda Legal argued. “Therefore, there is not even a rational relation to a legitimate government interest that justifies this disparate treatment, let alone an important or compelling one.” 

Tags Army Army Defense Department Department of Defense Department of Defense hiv HIV HIV restrictions HIV-positive HIV/AIDS Lamda Legal LGBT pentagon Pentagon
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