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Gay Air Force Vet Can Sue for Equal Severance

(CN) - A class action alleging that the U.S. government gave a fraction of the severance pay due to an Air Force staff sergeant honorably discharged under the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy will play out in the Court of Federal Claims.

Richard Collins sued the government in November 2010 on behalf of himself and other service members who were discharged under DADT between 2004 and 2010. Department of Defense instructions include "homosexuality" as condition meriting half separation pay, according to the complaint. Collins said this policy violates service members' rights to equal protection and substantive due process.

Involuntarily discharged after over nine years of able Air Force service, Collins qualified for nearly $27,000 in separation pay, according to the complaint. He instead received $13,000.

Attorneys for the government moved to dismiss the case, arguing that the Court of Federal Claims lacked jurisdiction over the military and that Collins had failed to state a claim for which relief could be granted. But Judge Christine Odell Cook Miller disagreed.

"Having decided that this particular case falls within this court's jurisdiction under the Tucker Act, does concern the constitutionality of promulgated regulations, and does not invade that area of the military's discretion in making personnel decisions, this court does have the 'ability' to provide relief in this case," Miller wrote Monday.

"Based on the well-pleaded allegations, plaintiff could prevail under the regulatory structure, which requires further exploration and analysis that are inappropriate for this stage of the proceedings," she added.

Collins' legal team includes Joshua Block of Manhattan and ACLU attorneys Leslie Cooper and Laura Schauer Ives.

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