Originally published on Advocate.com June 27 2011 3:30 PM ET
The Pentagon confirmed Monday that more service members have been discharged under “don’t ask, don’t tell” pending certification of the policy’s repeal, with one individual’s discharge approved as recently as Thursday.
A total of four airmen have been discharged under the policy in the last several weeks, Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen Lainez confirmed Monday.
One of those individuals is Airman First Class Albert Pisani, who spoke to The Advocate earlier this month of his voluntary separation under “don’t ask, don’t tell,” which defense officials approved on April 29.
Air Force spokesman Maj. Joel Harper told The Advocate that the discharges of three additional service members — two female staff sergeants and one male second lieutenant— have been approved since an April 29 discharge. Harper declined to say whether Pisani was the April 29 discharge, citing confidentiality reasons.
When The Advocate story ran, Defense officials had said that the separation approved April 29 was the only such discharge under DADT since late October, when the Defense Department limited authority for discharges to just five senior officials.
But in a statement, Harper confirmed the additional discharges since. “On May 31st, 2011, the Secretary of the Air Force approved discharges of two Airmen under the provisions of 10 USC 654 [the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy],“ Harper said. “On June 23, 2011, the Secretary of the Air Force accepted the resignation of an Airman who asked to be separated under the provisions of [DADT].”
Harper said that all four individuals discharged had made voluntary statements regarding their sexual orientation and had asked to be “separated expeditiously.”
Despite the urging of gay service member groups to certify DADT repeal prior to the exit of outgoing Defense secretary Robert Gates, who leaves office Thursday, certification may not come until late July or early August, Gates told wire service AFP Thursday.
His successor, CIA director Leon Panetta, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in a prepared statement for his confirmation hearing earlier this month that he “will work closely with the Joint Chiefs of Staff to assess whether the elements for certification in the law are met before signing it myself.”
Full statement from Air Force spokesman Maj. Joel Harper:
April 29th, 2011, the Secretary of the Air Force approved the discharge
of an Airman under the provisions of 10 USC 654. On May 31st, 2011, the
Secretary of the Air Force approved discharges of two Airmen under the
provisions of 10 USC 654. On June 23, 2011, the Secretary of the Air
Force accepted the resignation of an Airman who asked to be separated
under the provisions of 10 USC 654.
“Each case was approved
after coordination with the DoD General Counsel and the Under Secretary
of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. The officials evaluated these
cases carefully and concluded that separation was appropriate.
Airman made a statement identifying themselves as gay. Each Airman
asked to be separated expeditiously after being informed of the current
status of the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' Until repeal occurs,
'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' remains the law."
29 Apr -- Airman 1st Class, Male
31 May -- Staff Sgt., Female
31 May -- Staff Sgt., Female
23 Jun -- 2nd Lt., Male
Reaction from advocacy groups on the additional discharges:
Alexander Nicholson, executive director, Servicemembers United:
"It is rather shocking that we continue to see isolated incidents of service members trying to force the Pentagon to let them out of their service obligations because the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' law still technically remains on the books. The Pentagon has made it abundantly clear that it does not want to enforce 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' any longer and that it is more than willing to deal with any lingering harassment issues through the chain of command or, in the case of command involvement, the base's or post's Inspector General's office. Thousands of service members have dreamed of the day when 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' would be virtually dead and commands would plead with openly gay service members to remain in the service. It really would behoove the Defense Department to expedite certification so that no one can use this archaic law as a loophole to leave the military early anymore."
R. Clarke Cooper, executive director, Log Cabin Republicans, which filed suit against “don’t ask, don’t tell” in 2004 (a federal district judge ruled DADT unconstitutional last fall):
“Unfortunately, our case remains very necessary because discharges and investigations are still happening at the Department of Defense. President Obama may wish Log Cabin Republicans v. United States would just go away, the case goes on and will go on until the threat of discharge is removed permanently. Log Cabin Republicans made a vow to stand up for our men and women in uniform. Our case is insurance to set precedent so the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ cannot come back in the form of a statute or executive policy. If the four individuals undergoing discharge proceedings are gaming the current statute to avoid service commitments, it is further reason for Defense to certify open service and mitigate such fraud and waste. As an officer, I am offended anyone would express such a lack of integrity."
Fred Sainz, vice president of communications, Human Rights Campaign:
"We look forward to the day very, very soon when all service members can serve openly and without the pressure of divulging their sexual orientation."
Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network:
"These Air Force discharges underscore that DADT investigations and discharges continue. Unfortunately, SLDN has a client right now who was recently recommended for discharge at a board hearing, and his paperwork is headed to the Navy Secretary. He made no statement, and he wants to continue serving. We have another client who is having a board hearing later this week, and if this senior enlisted person is recommended for discharge, her paperwork will likely be before the Navy Secretary in short order. She, too, wants to continue serving. Let me be clear. At SLDN, we have scores of clients who have been advised they are under DADT investigations. Some of these clients have between 10 and 15 years of honorable service, few made voluntary statements, and none to my knowledge has asked to be ‘separated expeditiously.’ For these service members, especially, certification and final repeal cannot come soon enough. The continued stress of investigations and the risk of separation under DADT is real and very much imminent."