The United States Navy has initiated discharge proceedings against a 10-year veteran who attended a June 3 rally in support of same-sex marriage on New York’s Brooklyn Bridge.
Rhonda Davis, a petty officer first class journalist in the Navy, attended the rally and subsequently gave an interview to local radio station, where she identified herself as a member of the Navy. Davis also endorsed same-sex marriage and indicated in her interview that she was looking forward to someday marrying her partner of more than three years.
Several people who heard the broadcast called Davis’ superiors to complain. On June 5, Davis’ commander informed her that officials of the office where she was stationed were forced to begin discharge discharge proceedings against her under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which prohibits lesbian, gay and bisexual personnel who are open and honest about their sexuality from serving in the armed forces.
“Petty Officer Davis’s case highlights the double-standard “‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ forces gay men and women to serve under,” said Sharra E. Greer, director of law and policy for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a group that is representing Davis.
The Department of Defense has discharged more than 11,000 service members since 1993 under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” ban, the network said. According to the Government Accountability Office, more than 800 of those service members were trained in skills deemed “mission-critical” by the Pentagon.
A private blue-ribbon panel recently estimated the cost of the ban at more than $363.8 million.
The Defense Department did not respond to a request for comment, but officials in the past have said the panel’s estimate of the ban’s cost was too high.
Davis said her sexuality is unrelated to her job.
“I am a proud, patriotic American who happens to be gay,” Davis said. “My sexual orientation has never stood in the way of getting my job done, and I was looking forward to continuing my Navy career. Unfortunately, federal law places discrimination ahead of national security and gay service members are caught in the crossfire.”
Greer said the military’s policy makes gay service members second-class citizens.
“While heterosexual military personnel can proclaim their love from the San Francisco Bridge to the Brooklyn Bridge without consequence, lesbian or gay service members who do the same are sent packing,” she said. “As a result, the Navy is now losing the talents and dedication of a ten-year veteran simply because of federally sanctioned homophobia.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, July 21, 2006.
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