Gay Man, Citing Supreme Court Ruling, Fights ‘97 Army Discharge
York Times, July 9, 2003
229 W. 43rd Street, New York, NY 10036
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
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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