Decorated Veteran Challenges Army Dismissal
July 9, 2003
WASHINGTON—Former Army lieutenant
colonel Steve Loomis, a decorated Vietnam combat veteran and recipient of the
Purple Heart, filed suit on Monday with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims
challenging the constitutionality of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
The challenge is based in part on the recent U.S. Supreme
Court opinion in Lawrence v. Texas which declared that the Texas sodomy
statute violated the United State’s Constitution’s guarantee of a right to
privacy. LTC Loomis is seeking to reverse his 1997 discharge from the United
The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), which
represented LTC Loomis during his initial discharge proceedings, said his case
is the first of several likely to be filed in the wake of Lawrence.
“Lawrence has a direct impact on the federal sodomy
statute and the military’s gay ban,” said SLDN executive director C. Dixon
Osburn. “Under ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ the federal government
regularly intrudes in the most personal aspects of our lives. That is wrong,
and it is time for the government to change.”
The U.S. Supreme Court has not ruled on the
constitutionality of the military’s sodomy statute or “don’t ask,
don’t tell,” but four appellate courts have upheld the policy.
“The legal landscape has changed since the earlier
courts’ rulings,” Osburn said. “Those decisions were based in part on a
view that the state could regulate private consensual sexual conduct under
Bowers v. Hardwick,” an earlier Supreme Court opinion upholding Georgia’s
sodomy statute that the current court has now overruled.
According to Pentagon statistics reported by SLDN, the
Pentagon has discharged more than 9,000 service members for being gay since
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was first implemented ten years ago. Congress
codified “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” into law in 1993 in response to
President Clinton’s efforts to end discrimination against lesbian, gay and
bisexual service members. The law requires lesbian, gay and bisexual service
members to keep their sexual orientation an absolute secret or face the risk
The Army discharged LTC Loomis, a former engineer war
plans officer, for being gay eight days prior to his twenty year retirement
date. As a result, LTC Loomis forfeited his retirement pension worth an
estimated one million dollars. Each of the Army Colonels sitting on the
discharge board that determined LTC Loomis’ fate called homosexuality “a
sickness” or said they had “no tolerance” for homosexuality. Efforts to
remove those officers from the discharge board for bias failed.
The Army based its discharge on a videotape seized during
an arson investigation. An arsonist set fire to LTC Loomis’ home in 1996.
Civilian authorities investigating the arson found the videotape, which
depicts LTC Loomis in private adult consensual sexual conduct, and handed it
over to Army officials. The Army used the videotape as the basis for
discharge, ending the decorated veteran’s distinguished career.
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