Chronology of Able v. United States
Scope and Content
Title: Ken Osborn legal records
Collection number: Coll2007-005
Osborn, Ken (Kenneth Lee), 1964-
Collection Size: 2 archive boxes.
(1 linear foot).
ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives.
Los Angeles, California 90007
Abstract: Legal records, including briefs, memoranda,
trial transcripts, and judicial orders, of 1st Lt. (later Capt.) Ken Osborn,
USAR, relating to his participation as one of the named plaintiffs in
Able v. United States (1994-1998) and its
Doe v. Aspin (1993), the first
pro-active court challenge to the Clinton Administration's "Don't Ask, Don't
Tell" policy concerning gays in the military.
Languages: Languages represented in the collection:
The collection is open to researchers. There are no access
Researchers wishing to publish materials must obtain permission in
writing from ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives as the physical owner.
Researchers must also obtain clearance from the holder(s) of any copyrights in
the materials. Note that ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives can grant
copyright clearance only for those materials for which we hold the copyright.
It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain copyright clearance for
all other materials directly from the copyright holder(s).
Ken osborn legal records, Coll2007-005, ONE National Gay and Lesbian
Archives, Los Angeles, California.
Gift of Ken Osborn, January 14, 2004.
Processed by Michael P. Palmer, March 2007.
Processing this collection has been funded
by a generous grant from the National Historical Publications and Records
Kenneth Lee Osborn was born in Santa Monica, California, in 1964. His
family moved to Huntington Beach, in Orange County, in 1966. He graduated from
Fountain Valley High School in 1982, and went on to California State University
Fullerton, where he received a B.A. in Communications in 1986. In February
1983, while still a student, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, where he
was trained as a field radio operator and where he remained for two years,
attaining the rank of Corporal. After a short tour with the California National
Guard, Osborn joined the Army ROTC program at California State University
Fullerton, where he held the positions of Junior Cadet Commander, Battalion
Supply Officer, and Senior Class Advisor. He also served concurrently as the
Public Affairs Officer of the 311th Corps Support Command. Upon his graduation
in 1986, Osborn was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve
and assigned as a platoon leader to the 361st Supply Company. He served in the
company about three years, ending his tour as its executive officer. He was
then assigned to the staff of the 155th Corps Support Battalion in South El
Monte, and by mid-June 1993 was serving as a 1st Lieutenant in the 304th
Material Management Center in West Los Angeles.
Osborn was called up for active duty during Desert Storm (1990/1991),
and it was while he was stationed at Ft. Lewis that he came to the realization
that he was gay. In 1993, he joined with Lt. Col. Jane Able (a pseudonym),
Petty Officer Robert J. Heigl, 1st Lieutenant Donita Holloway, SGT Steven
Spencer, Lieutenant Richard von Wohld, and Seaman Werner Zehr, in the first
pro-active legal challenge to the Clinton Administration's "Don't Ask, Don't
Tell" policy regarding gays and lesbians in the military. Originally filed n
the 2nd District Court for the District of Columbia (
, No. 93-1549) in July 1993, the suit was refiled in the
District Court for the Eastern District of New York (
v. United States
, No. 94-0974) on March 7, 1994. While District Court
Judge Eugene H. Nickerson twice ruled that the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy
was unconstitutional, on both occasions he was overruled by the 2nd Circuit
Court. In December 1998, the Circuit Court denied the plaintiffs' petition for
a rehearing, thus effectively ending their challenge to the "Don't Ask, Don't
Tell" policy. In a twist of irony, while the case was before the courts the
plaintiffs had been protected from discharge from the military by a temporary
restraining order, and during that time Osborn had been promoted to Captain and
had been activated and served a tour in Bosnia.
During the course of his court challenge to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell",
Osborn became involved in the gay veterans movement, serving as Vice President
of Public Affairs of the Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual Veterans of America
(GLBVA) in 1995-1996, as well as President of the organization's Long
Beach/Orange County chapter. In 2004, he served as Public Affairs Office and
Vice President, Region 5, of American Veterans for Equal Rights.
Osborn currently resides in the Atwater Village district of Los Angeles,
where he is a member of the Atwater Village Neighborhood Council.
Chronology of Able v. United States
|1993, July 27
||Lt. Col. Jane Doe, Petty Officer John Roe, 1st Lt. Donita
Holloway, Staff Sgt. Harold McCarthy, 1st Lt. Kenneth Osborn, Sgt. Steven
Spencer, & Lt. Richard v. Wohld v. Les Aspin, filed in the District Court
for the District of Columbia (No. 93-1549).
|1994, March 7
||Lt. Col. Jane Able, Petty Officer Robert J. Heigl, 1st Lt.
Donita Holloway, 1st Lt. Kenneth Osborn, Sgt. Steven Spencer, Lt. Richard von
Wohld and Seaman Werner Zehr v. United States of America and William J. Perry,
Secretary of Defense, filed in the District Court for the Eastern District of
New York (No. 94-0974). Assigned to Judge Eugene H. Nickerson.
|1994, April 4
||Judge Nickerson grants temporary restraining order to
|1994, June 3
||Judge Nickerson grants second temporary restraining order to
|1994, July 8
||Government appeals temporary restraining orders to the Court of
Appeals for the Second Circuit.
|1995, January 3
||Circuit Court orders that restraining orders remain in force and
remands case back to District Court for trial on the merits.
|1995, March 30
||Judge Nickerson rules that 10 USC 654 (the law embodying the
"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy) violates the First and Fifth Amendments to the
|1996, July 1
||Circuit Court vacates Judge Nickerson's ruling and remands case
back to him.
|1997, July 2
||Judge Nickerson rules that 10 USC 654 (b) violates the equal
protection clause of the Fifth Amendment.
|1998, September 23
||Circuit Court reverses Judge Nickerson's decision.
|1998, December 1
||Court denies petition for rehearing.
Scope and Content
The collection consists almost entirely of legal papers filed in the
Able v. United States (1994-1998) and
Doe v. Aspin (1993), together
with transcripts of a small number of newspaper and magazine articles
concerning the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, two ACLU press releases
concerning the case, several pamphlets concerning gays in the military, and a
small correspondence file. The legal papers are incomplete, in particular for
the Circuit Court and later District Court proceedings. Among the missing
materials is Judge Eugene H. Nickerson's decision (favorable to the plaintiffs)
in the second of the two District Court trials on the merits of the case,
issued on July 2, 1997; however, the materials in the collection include copies
of all other judicial decisions. The correspondence file contains a copy of
Osborn's letter in June 1993 to Senators Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer
announcing his impending court challenge to the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy,
and their responses.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this
collection in the library's online public access catalog.
Osborn, Ken (Kenneth Lee),
Heigle, Robert J.
Wohld, Richard von
Gays in the military
Able v. United States