An openly gay Marine reservist facing a possible court-martial for skipping prewar training in the fight against Iraq will be able to introduce evidence that he is a conscientious objector if he is tried. A military judge made the ruling Monday in a preliminary hearing for Lance Cpl. Stephen Funk. The hearing will determine whether Funk, 21, is court-martialed in September or the charge is dismissed. Navy lawyers had asked the judge to exclude evidence that Funk was a conscientious objector. Funk's lawyer is trying to have the charge dismissed, saying that he is being selectively prosecuted.
Funk is charged with "shirking important duty" instead of simply being absent without leave. Charges of being AWOL generally carry lighter punishment that doesn't require legal proceedings, defense attorney Stephen Collier said. Funk said the Marines want to make an example of him because he publicly criticized the military and attended antiwar protests.
Capt. Jeff Poole, a Marine spokesman, said Funk's objection to the war, his public criticism of the style of Marine training, and his sexual orientation were not issues in the court-martial.
Going AWOL often is punished by loss of pay or confinement to barracks for a short time. If Funk is convicted, he could face up to a year in military prison.
Funk missed 47 days of training despite a warning from his commander that he would be in trouble if he failed to join his San Jose, Calif.-based unit for exercises at Camp Pendleton near San Diego in February, Poole said. While the Marines could have punished Funk simply by docking his pay or confining him to barracks, going AWOL while one's unit is mobilizing for war is generally considered more severe than skipping a typical training exercise during peacetime, Poole said.