EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Discharged Airman Wanted Out

BY admin

June 16 2011 11:40 AM ET

After sending the email, Pisani said, “I didn’t hear anything back. But
the discharge paperwork started again, and I wondered if it was just a
coincidence.”

Air Force spokesman Maj. Joel Harper told
reporters earlier this month the same account of Pisani’s desire to be
discharged. “After the separation action was initiated, the individual
was informed of the current status of the repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell,' and he reaffirmed to [Secretary Donley] that he desired his
separation action be expeditiously processed," Harper said.

Following
his admission, news spread among Pisani’s colleagues that he was going
through discharge proceedings. Supervisors told those who asked
about the situation that Pisani was being discharged because he was a
conscientious objector, he said. “But when people asked me, I’d say,
‘No, I’m getting out because I’m gay.’ The majority were OK with it,”
Pisani said. “If I hadn’t had that support it would have been a lot
harder, because it was really stressful.”

But Pisani said that,
during a conversation about DADT repeal with a supervisor, one
particular comment had rattled him: “If [gays] get in the military,
there may be more friendly fire down range,” the supervisor had said,
according to Pisani.

“I was thinking to myself, Why would you
even say that, especially if you knew why I was getting out?
” Pisani
said. “Are you serious?

Defense officials confirmed that Donley approved Pisani’s discharge April 29 after consultation with
Jeh Johnson, the Defense Department’s general counsel; and Clifford
Stanley, undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. On May
4, Pisani said he became aware that his discharge had been completed. He
left Davis-Monthan two days later.

Whatever the full details of
his personal situation may be, Pisani expressed deep concern during the
interview about certain stipulations on DADT repeal — namely the absence
of sexual orientation as a protected trait in the Military Equal
Opportunity (MEO) program, which bars discrimination and harassment on
the basis of race, sex, and religion, among other characteristics.

"There’s no special policy needed to address the things that we’re
talking about here with regard to taking care of people and treating
them with dignity,” Undersecretary Stanley said of the MEO in a January
press conference. “That’s so fundamentally basic. So the remedies you
have are the remedies that already exist. There’s no need to create new
remedies.”

Under current policy, gay service members who may
experience harassment on the basis of sexual orientation would have to
report the problem up the chain of command, or alternatively to the
inspector general’s office on base. Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen Lainez
added Thursday via email that, “When criminal, complaints of harassment
may be referred to law enforcement for investigation.”

Pisani
did not follow this existing protocol and considers the current remedies
inadequate. “It’s definitely a flaw,” he said of the lack of protection
under the MEO program. What if those within the chain of command are
the source of the harassment itself? he asked. “This needs to be changed
before gay service members can feel safe.”

Congressional
opponents of DADT repeal — who have company among many GOP presidential
candidates, with five of the seven at Monday’s CNN debate
declaring they opposed ending the policy — have attempted to put up
further barriers to equality for gay and lesbian service members. Some
observers are watching in particular whether an amendment passed in the
House National Defense Authorization Act last month that bans same-sex
weddings at military facilities will find any support in the Senate — or a lack of
strong leadership in opposition.
In a statement of policy, President Obama has opposed the amendment,
authored by Rep. Todd Akin, a Missouri Republican, which also bars military
chaplains from performing such weddings in their official capacities.

Upon repeal certification of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” Lainez wrote in a statement to The Advocate  Thursday, “The services will no longer separate service members under
DADT. Members who have an approved separation date forecasted after
repeal, based solely on DADT, will have that separation cancelled. The
services will cease all pending investigations, separations, discharges,
or administrative proceedings commenced solely under DADT.”

Now
29, Pisani has moved to Boston from Tucson following his discharge. He
is currently looking for work in the information technology field and is
living with his family along with his partner, who is also a former
service member.

“I’m afraid of what may happen. I mean, repeal is
great: You can’t get kicked out for being gay,” Pisani said. “But it
doesn’t mean, I think, that serving openly is necessarily a good idea
right now.”

























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