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
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
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.
[Home] [News] [US Military]