Thursday, September 28, 2023
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Three Vets Challenge ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Three veterans, including a major and a cryptologist, sued the Secretary of Defense in Federal Court, saying they were drummed out of the armed forces under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law, which is "unconstitutional on [its] face." All three seek reinstatement to active duty: two to the Air Force and one to the Navy.

Maj. Michael Almy, a 13-year veteran of the Air Force, served four deployments to the Middle East. "He is a highly trained communications officer. During his 13-year Air Force career, former Major Almy received numerous military awards and decorations. In 2006, he was discharged from the Air Force under DADT," the complaint states.

Staff Sgt. Anthony Loverde served for 7 years in the Air Force. He was a C-130 Loadmaster and Precision Measurement Equipment Laboratory Technician. He too was decorated. He was drummed out in 2008.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Jason Knight served 5 years in the Navy. He is a Cryptological Technician Interpretive Linguist. He too was decorated, and was discharged in 2005 under DADT. "Mr. Knight was recalled to active duty in 2006 but was discharged again in 2007 under DADT," the complaint states.

All three seek reinstatement, and say: "This action is also brought to declare unconstitutional the discharges of plaintiffs Almy, Loverde, and Knight under DADT, and to declare the DADT stature, 10 U.S.C. §654, and the regulations, policies and guidance that implement it, unconstitutional on their face."

They sued the Department of Defense, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and the Departments and secretaries of the Air Force and Navy.

The 22-page lawsuit cites glowing recommendations from the men's superior officers. Almy was discharged after "a purportedly 'routine' search of his computer files" turned up "at least one email from Mr. Almy to another man discussing same-sex conduct," according to the complaint. The email was in a "Friends" folder, because the Air Force prohibited soldiers from using private email accounts in Iraq, but "AFI 33-119 authorized service members to use their government email accounts for personal correspondence for 'morale, health, and welfare purposes,'" according to the complaint.

"Mr. Almy was discharged from the Air Force against his will. Had he not been discharged under DADT, he would have remained on active duty in the Air Force to this day. Mr. Almy does not seek lost wages. He simply wishes to be reinstated into active duty in the Air Force so he can once again serve his country and fulfill the commitment he made to the Air Force."

The two other plaintiffs tell similar stories, though their sexual orientation was not revealed by snooping on their emails. Loverde simply mentioned it, and the Navy learned of Knight's sexual orientation when he provided the Navy with copies of the annulment of his marriage. The Navy discharged Knight, but "due to a bureaucratic error," it did not ban him for life, but made him eligible for recall.

Knight was recalled to active duty in July 2006. But after Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, "publicly expressed his personal views of homosexuality as 'immoral,'" in March 2007, Knight wrote a letter to the editor of Stars & Stripes newspaper, "responding to General Pace's comments."

"In May 2007, Mr. Knight was the subject of an article in the Stars & Stripes regarding his service in Kuwait while openly gay. Shortly thereafter, the navy began administrative discharge proceedings under DADT against Mr. Knight for the second time."

The men say they were denied due process, equal protection of the laws, and that DADT violates the First Amendment and the Administrative Procedures Act. Their lead counsel is M. Andrew Woodmansee with the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, of San Diego.

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