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Ken Osborn Legal Records
Coll2007-005  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Processing Information
  • Biography
  • Chronology of Able v. United States
  • Scope and Content
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Ken Osborn legal records
    Dates: 1992-1998
    Collection number: Coll2007-005
    Creator: Osborn, Ken (Kenneth Lee), 1964-
    Collection Size: 2 archive boxes. (1 linear foot).
    Repository: 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 predecessor, 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: English

    Access

    The collection is open to researchers. There are no access restrictions.

    Publication Rights

    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).

    Preferred Citation

    Ken osborn legal records, Coll2007-005, ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, Los Angeles, California.

    Acquisition Information

    Gift of Ken Osborn, January 14, 2004.

    Processing Information

    Processed by Michael P. Palmer, March 2007.
    Processing this collection has been funded by a generous grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

    Biography

    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 ( Roe v. Aspin , No. 93-1549) in July 1993, the suit was refiled in the District Court for the Eastern District of New York ( Able 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 plaintiffs.
    1994, June 3 Judge Nickerson grants second temporary restraining order to plaintiffs.
    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 Constitution.
    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 course of Able v. United States (1994-1998) and its predecessor, 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.

    Indexing Terms

    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), 1964-
    Able, Jane
    Heigle, Robert J.
    Holloway, Donita
    Spencer, Stephen
    Wohld, Richard von
    Zehr, Werner
    Gays in the military
    Able v. United States