Last edited: July 31, 2004

Gay Man, Citing Supreme Court Ruling, Fights ‘97 Army Discharge

New York Times, July 9, 2003
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By The New York Times

WASHINGTON—A former Army lieutenant colonel who was discharged in 1997 for being gay has filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and the military sodomy statute.

The suit, filed in federal court here, is based in part on the recent sweeping Supreme Court opinion in Lawrence v. Texas, which declared that the Texas sodomy statute violated the right to privacy. Jon Davidson, senior counsel at Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, a gay rights group, said the federal lawsuit was the first to be filed using the landmark court ruling as a precedent.

The former soldier, Loren S. Loomis, who filed the suit late on Monday, said he was seeking to reverse his discharge and to have his military record corrected.

Mr. Loomis was discharged just one week shy of the 20-year career mark that would have entitled him to full retirement benefits after his home was burned and a firefighter found a videotape of him engaging in sex with other men.

The Army discharged Mr. Loomis, who was wounded in the Vietnam War, in which he won two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart, under “other than honorable” conditions, a move that deprived him of pension and benefits that he says are worth more than $1 million.

Mr. Loomis appealed his discharge through the military’s administrative process, petitioning the Army Board for the Correction of Military Records, but the board declined to reinstate him or award him retirement benefits.

“A soldier’s sex life should be private and protected by the Constitution,” Mr. Loomis said in a interview. “Too often, the Army denies those who have sacrificed in its service the basic protection of law.”

Mr. Loomis, who now runs a land development company in Albuquerque, says he kept his homosexuality a private matter. It became an issue to the Army only after his home, near Fort Hood, Tex., was burned in 1996. The arsonist, an Army private who had posed for nude photographs for Mr. Loomis, said he was trying to destroy the pictures.

Under the policy introduced by the Clinton administration, the military cannot inquire into a soldier’s sex life unless there is evidence of homosexual conduct. Those who volunteer the information can be discharged.

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a gay rights group that monitors military justice, is assisting Mr. Loomis with his case. Group officials say it is the first to challenge the military’s policy for discharging gay soldiers in the wake of the Supreme Court decision.

A Pentagon official said the Defense Department general counsel was reviewing the ruling to determine whether it affected the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Sodomy remains a court-martial offense under the code, the official said.

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