Last edited: February 14, 2005

Discharged Gay Vet Hopes Supreme Court Decision Bolsters Case Against Army

Associated Press, July 18, 2003

By Leslie Hoffman

ALBUQUERQUE—When Stephen Loomis enlisted in the Army nearly four decades ago, he hoped to follow in the footsteps of his military family.

To a degree, he succeeded, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel and becoming a decorated Vietnam combat veteran who received the Purple Heart and two Bronze Star medals for valor.

But his career ended in bitterness on July 14, 1997 when the military discharged him “under other than honorable conditions” because he is gay.

Now, Loomis, who fought the Army’s decision and lost, has been given new hope by a Supreme Court decision that struck down a Texas sodomy law. The high court said in its decision last month that what gay men and women do in the privacy of their bedrooms is their business and not that of the government. Loomis and his lawyer believe those rights also should apply to military personnel.

They are challenging the constitutionality of the military’s sodomy statute and its “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

“I think the reasoning behind (the Texas decision) is extremely valid in terms of the discrimination the military has advanced in implementing ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell,’” said Loomis’s attorney, David Sheldon.

Loomis’ suit, filed July 7 in Washington, was the first to test the reach of the historic civil rights ruling, said Jon Davidson, senior counsel for Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund in Los Angeles. Several other suits citing the Supreme Court’s decision were filed subsequently.

Loomis, who now runs a land development company in Albuquerque, said he wants the courts to acknowledge “that ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is unfair, and it’s not working for the military.”

Under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, gays and lesbians are supposed to keep quiet about their sexual orientation, while enjoying freedom from harassment or unprovoked investigations. They can be discharged for speaking publicly about being gay or engaging in homosexual acts.

Since the policy was implemented in 1993, more than 8,500 servicemembers have been discharged, according to the Pentagon.

Loomis’ homosexuality was a secret among his military colleagues until an August 1996 arson fire at his home near Fort Hood, Texas. An Army private who admitted to starting the fire said he was trying to destroy nude pictures and videos he had posed for.

During the ensuing arson investigation, a videotape depicting Loomis having sex with men made its way into the hands of military officials.

With the videotape and testimony from the Army private in hand, a military board of inquiry recommended Loomis’ discharge “under other than honorable conditions” on grounds that he had engaged in homosexual acts and conduct unbecoming an officer.

Loomis said the discharge meant he was ineligible for retirement and other benefits estimated at more than $1 million.

He appealed, citing, among other things, board members’ personal opinions against homosexuality voiced at his hearing. The Army Board for the Correction of Military Records declined to reinstate Loomis’ benefits and upheld his discharge, but upgraded it to “under honorable conditions.”

Loomis said he had always been well aware of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and was careful to keep his homosexuality a private matter.

“It was never an issue of conflict between private life and my work,” he said, pointing out he’d gotten promotions and favorable job performance reviews by superiors.

But if a cautious senior officer can be caught by “don’t ask, don’t tell,” Loomis said, “what is happening to our young men and women affected by this policy?”

“It’s not proper, particularly when they’re good soldiers doing as good a job as their buddy next to them,” he said.

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