Federal court finds "Don't ask,
don't tell" policy unconstitutional
The testimony by lay witnesses
The testimoy by law witnesses:
Six "lay witnesses" -- that is, witnesses who were not experts -- testified for the Plaintiff: The Log Cabin Republicans (LCR). This is a group of lesbians, gays and bisexuals who support the Republican Party -- and who challenged the constitutionality of the DADT policy before District Court Judge Virginia Phillips of the United States District Court for the Central District of California. were:
Each of the six was a lesbian, gay or bisexual officer who had been separated against their will from the military due to DADT. All six would like to return to the military if DADT were repealed and they could openly serve. Their testimony filled 25 pages of the 86 page ruling by Judge Phillips.
- Michael Almy who: "... served for thirteen years as a commissioned officer in the United States Air Force, finishing his service as a major. He did not tell anyone in the military that he was gay. Someone gained access to Almy's computer, went snooping through Email messages without his knowledge or permission, and found a folder containing Emails with homosexual content. He was challenged by his superior and relieved of duty at the end of his meeting.
- Joseph Rocha of the U.S. Navy. He was harassed and accused of being a "faggot" because he did not take part in his units' regular visits to local prostitutes. During what the unit called a "training exercise" he was ordered to perform simulated oral sex on another enlisted man. On another occasion he was "... leashed like a dog,
paraded around the grounds in front of other soldiers, tied to a chair, force fed dog food, and left in a dog kennel covered with feces. When his commanding officer was being investigated on another matter, Rocha refused to answer questions because he was afraid it might lead to an investigation of himself and blow his cover. He only did answer when he was threatened with a court marshall.
He was admitted to the U.S. Naval Academy. After considering the 15 to 20 year commitment required of officer candidates, he decided that he could not realistically hope to work for that length of time under the DADT policy. He informed his commanding officer that he was gay and was separated from the Navy.
- Jenny Kopfstein was ordnance officer of the ship Shiloh "... in charge of two
weapon systems and a division of [fifteen] sailors." The DADT policy created a barrier between herself and her shipmates because she was unable to respond to personal questions. For example, she couldn't explain what she did on weekends without revealing that she was in a committed relationship with another woman. Forced to conceal this information made her feel that the other officers might not trust her -- a critical and potentially life-threatening problem in emergencies.
She wrote a letter to her commanding officer revealing her sexual orientation and was open about her sexuality among her coworkers. Her commanding officer, Captain W.E. Dewes, said that "[h]er sexual orientation has not disrupted good order and discipline onboard USS SHILOH ... [She was] an asset to the ship and the Navy [who] played an important role in enhancing the ship[']s strong reputation .. She is a trusted Officer of the Deck and best ship handler among her peers. Captain Liggett testified at her discharge proceedings that "it would be a shame for the service to lose her." Against her wishes and those of her two commanding officers, she was discharged from the Navy.
- John Nicholson enlisted in the United States Army where he qualified for advanced language training. He frequently heard fellow servicemembers violate Army conduct rules by making sexist and homophobic comments. However, he did not report this out of fear of being exposed as gay. He said that he lived under a "cloud of fear." This caused him to lie about who he was to avoid running afoul of the DADT policy. Another servicemember read a letter that Nicholson was writing to another gay man and spread the rumor that he was gay. When Nicholson went to the platoon sergeant to try to get the rumors stopped, the sergeant reported him to the chain of command. As preparations were made to discharge him, he was placed in a wing of the barracks reserved other servicemen who were being discharged for drug use or for lying about not having criminal convictions prior to enlistment.
- Anthony Loverde joined the United States Air Force where he received training in electronics. He became aware of his homosexual orientation while in the service. He also did not report sexist and homophobic slurs by other servicemembers of fear of being exposed as gay. He had to lie about his personal life in order to avoid running afoul of DADT. He found it impossible to continue working under the DADT policy and revealed to his first sergeant that he was gay. Although his superiors recommended that he remain in the Air Force because he was "nothing less than an outstanding [noncommissioned officer and] a strong asset" to the Air Force [who demonstrated an] "exceptional work ethic," he was forcibly discharged against his will.
- Steven Vossler has an exceptional aptitude towards learning foreign languages. He enlisted in the Army and was assigned to the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA. One of his fellow servicemembers was gay and Vossler found it particularly distressing to be forced to violate the Army's code of honor by lying about his coworker's activities in order to protect that person from being outed. When his tour of service expired, Vossler enlisted in the National Guard instead of reenlisting in the Army. He became an strong activist for the repeal of DADT. He feels that the policy "doesn't seem in line with
American values. ... [He] doesn't understand how it's a law in [this] country" because it is so discriminatory.
The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.
- Virginia Phillips, "Text of ruling: Case No. CV 04-08425-VAP (Ex)," Filed 2010-SEP-09, at: http://graphics8.nytimes.com/ Pages 21 to 46 This is a PDF file.
Copyright © 2010 by Ontario Consultants on
Originally written: 2010-SEP-11
Latest update: 2010-SEP-11
Author: B.A. Robinson