Last edited: July 18, 2004

Decorated Veteran Challenges Army Dismissal

Datalounge, 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 States Army.

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 of discharge.

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.

[Home] [News] [US Military]