Gay Plano man who was discharged from Navy under ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ attempts to re-enlist

John James Coolidge III

John James Coolidge III, a 24-year-old gay man who was discharged from the Navy in 2007 under “don’t ask don’t tell,” says he walked into a recruiting station in Plano this morning and attempted to re-enlist — this time in the Reserves.

The Pentagon announced Tuesday that it had advised recruiting commanders they must accept gay applicants, after a federal district judge issued an order last week halting enforcement of DADT.

“I handed them every item I have from my military record,” Coolidge said of his visit to the recruiting station. “I said specifically, ‘I’ve been waiting three years and eight months to the day for this. I want this taken care of and changed, and I want to get back in.’”

Coolidge said he was directed to another recruiting office in Mesquite that handles re-enlistments. He said he plans to go there on Thursday morning. Meanwhile, the government has asked an appellate court for an emergency stay of the order halting enforcement of DADT.

“I know it’s kind of up in the air, but I’m hoping the courts side with the fact that it really is unconstitutional,” said Coolidge, adding that he’s a gay Republican and proudly noting that the lawsuit was brought by the Log Cabin Republicans.

Coolidge said he was a medic stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina and had been the Navy for less than a year, when someone told his commander that he was dating a Marine sergeant — which wasn’t entirely true. “I just slept with him,” Coolidge said. “It wasn’t worth it either. He was slightly drunk and he had a really tacky red light in his room.”

Coolidge said he was discharged within a month, forcing him to come out to his Catholic parents. He contemplated suicide and checked himself into a psychiatric ward.

A Michigan native, Coolidge eventually moved to Texas and now lives in Plano. He said he’s currently unemployed but recently obtained his Certified Nursing Assistant license.

We’ll have an update on Coolidge after he visits the Mesquite recruiting office on Thursday.

UPDATE: Dave Guy-Gainer, a local board member for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, reported Wednesday afternoon that another gay veteran who was discharged under DADT, Michael Moore, re-enlisted today in Mesquite. Here’s what Gainer said:

“Airman Michael Moore went to the Mesquite Recruiting Station and started his re-enlistment processing today. Fox 4 News Dallas accompanied him. You may recognize  Michael who carried the Rainbow Flag in the color guard leading the Alan Ross parade the last two years. I am so very proud of these young men and women who, although aware of the potential consequences and the obstacles that may be in their way, simply stand back up, dust themselves off, and say – I just want to continue to serve. SLDN is still advising active duty personnel to not come out until DADT is fully repealed. The DOJ appeal to the 9th Circuit Court can still go either way.”

—  John Wright

BREAKING: Judge denies government’s request to resume enforcement of ‘don’t ask don’t tell’

As expected, a federal district judge in California on Tuesday denied the government’s request to delay her injunction from last week halting the military’s enforcement of “don’t ask don’t tell.”

The Associated Press reports:

U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips issued her ruling Tuesday after saying the government had not proven that her order would harm troops or impede efforts to implement new military regulations to deal with openly gay troops.

Justice Department officials say the Obama administration will appeal to the appellate court in San Francisco.

The military has promised to abide by her order as long as it remains in place.

Phillips declared the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy unconstitutional Sept. 9. Under the 1993 law, the military cannot inquire into service members’ sexual orientation and punish them for it as long as they keep it to themselves.

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, issued the following statement in response to Phillips decision Tuesday to deny the government’s request:

“By the judge keeping the injunction in place, lesbian and gay service members are protected another day, but the uncertainty has not gone away. The Department of Justice will immediately ask the 9th Circuit to stay the injunction. We’re talking about the careers of patriots, people who are on the frontlines serving our country – some of whom are highly decorated – and the court needs to keep the injunction in place. As the DOJ fights to keep this unconstitutional and oppressive law, we are monitoring active-duty clients’ cases and fielding calls every day to our hotline. During this interim period of uncertainty, service members must not come out. Our service members need finality. Given the uncertainty in the courts, we urge the Senate to act swiftly next month on repeal when they return to Washington.”

Below is the full text of Phillips’ ruling:

LCR v USA – ORDER Emergency Stay Denied

—  John Wright

BREAKING: Judge orders military to halt enforcement of ‘don’t ask don’t tell’

A federal judge in California has issued an injunction halting enforcement of “don’t ask don’t tell.”

Judge Virginia Phillips on Tuesday ordered the U.S. military “immediately to suspend and discontinue any investigation, or discharge, separation, or other proceeding, that may have been commenced” under DADT.

Phillips previously ruled that DADT violates servicemembers’ rights to due process and free speech. However, she delayed issuing an injunction in the lawsuit brought by the Log Cabin Republicans.

The Department of Justice now has 60 days to appeal the decision but has not said whether it will do so. In the meantime, the DOJ could also seek a stay of the decision from the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. DOJ has no obligation to appeal the ruling and could simply allow it to stand.

“This order from Judge Phillips is another historic and courageous step in the right direction, a step that Congress has been noticeably slow in taking,” said Alexander Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United and the sole named veteran plaintiff in the case along with the Log Cabin Republicans. “While this is certainly news to be celebrated, we would also advise caution in advance of a potential stay from the Ninth Circuit. If the appellate court wishes to put itself on the right side of history, however, it will allow this sound and long-over due decision to remain in effect.”

Christian Berle, acting executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, said in the wake of Phillips’ initial ruling, the injunction was the “only reasonable solution.”

“These soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines sacrifice so much in defense of our nation and our Constitution,” Berle said. “It is imperative that their constitutional freedoms be protected as well. This decision is also a victory for all who support a strong national defense. No longer will our military be compelled to discharge servicemembers with valuable skills and experience because of an archaic policy mandating irrational discrimination. The United States is stronger because of this injunction, and Log Cabin Republicans is proud to have brought the case that made it possible.”

Dan Woods, one of the attorneys representing Log Cabin, said he was “extremely pleased” with the injunction.

“The order represents a complete and total victory for Log Cabin Republicans and reaffirms the constitutional rights of gays and lesbians in the military who are fighting and dying for our country,” Woods said.

Other statements on Tuesday’s order:

Aaron Tax, legal director, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network:

“We applaud Judge Phillips for putting an immediate stop to all investigations and discharges under this unconstitutional law. As explained by the judge, this order applies across the military. This order bars the Department of Defense from enforcing or applying the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law against any person under its command. We have clients under investigation and facing discharge right now. We’ll be monitoring each case over the coming days. This order will likely be appealed by the Justice Department and brought to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit where her decision may well be reversed. The law still has a chance of being repealed in the lame duck session of Congress. Service members must proceed safely and should not come out at this time. Anyone in the armed forces with questions or concerns should call our hotline.”

—  John Wright

Court won’t force Calif. officials to defend Prop 8

Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A California court has refused to order Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown to appeal a ruling that overturned the state’s gay marriage ban.

The 3rd District Court of Appeal on Wednesday, Sept. 1 denied a conservative legal group’s request to force the officials to defend voter-approved Proposition 8.

Presiding Justice Arthur Scotland did not explain why the appeals court turned down the request filed two days earlier by the Pacific Justice Institute.

The institute now plans to take the matter to the California Supreme Court, Chief Counsel Kevin Snider said Thursday.

“We are disappointed that the appellate court showed indecisiveness in trying to prevent a constitutional crisis,” Snider said. “They didn’t want to deal with it.”

The institute maintains the attorney general and governor have the duty to uphold all laws, including those passed by voters.

Brown has said he cannot defend Proposition 8 because he thinks it is unconstitutional; Schwarzenegger has chosen to remain neutral.

Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker struck down Proposition 8 last month as a violation of gay Californians’ civil rights.

The measure approved by 52 percent of California voters in November 2008 amended the state Constitution to outlaw same-sex unions five months after the state Supreme Court legalized them.

The state has until Sept. 11 to challenge Walker’s ruling. Both Brown and Schwarzenegger have said they don’t plan an appeal.

The coalition of conservative and religious groups that sponsored the ban has appealed the ruling by Walker. But doubts have been raised about whether its members have authority to do so because as ordinary citizens they are not responsible for enforcing marriage laws.

Twenty-seven members of the California Assembly sent Schwarzenegger a letter this week urging the governor to bring an appeal if Brown will not.

—  John Wright

Equality Texas calls gay divorce ruling ‘uninformed, outdated and homophobic’

Instant Tea is no attorney, but we can read. And having now thoroughly perused a Dallas appeals court’s gay divorce ruling from Tuesday, we’d say it doesn’t take a law degree to tell you that it’s bad — like, real bad.

The gay divorce ruling reads like an anti-thesis to U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision last month declaring Prop 8 unconstitutional. Thankfully, we can take comfort in knowing that the gay divorce ruling will have a limited impact in terms of legal precedent. And maybe, just maybe, it will serve as a helpful reminder about just how far the LGBT community has to go in places like Texas.

Anyhow, we’ll have much more about the ruling in Friday’s Dallas Voice, but for now we thought we’d share this statement sent out Tuesday afternoon by Equality Texas:

The Fifth District Court of appeals has taken the most extreme, the most conservative view possible on each issue before it. It’s not as if they wanted to just overturn the trial court’s decision, they wanted to smash it into ground and discourage anyone from ever filing a pro-LGBT suit ever again.

The ruling harkens back to a view of the world from generations past — a world where LGBT people were content to live in closets, and were afraid to demand to be treated with dignity and respect. A dignity and respect that this court goes out of its way to completely deny.

In going so far to overturn the trial court’s decision, with such an extreme opinion, the appellate court has lowered the bar for any effort to overturn its ruling:

• The Court’s view of marriage is historically inaccurate. Marriage existed in many forms, for many reasons, for many thousands of years.

• Refusal to view sexual orientation as a suspect class singled out for disparate and discriminatory treatment ignores both the entire purpose of DOMA and the anti-marriage amendment, as well as the well-documented history of discrimination, hate crimes, and statutory treatment of LGBT individuals.

• The Court’s view of same-sex relationships is uninformed, outdated and homophobic — predicating its decision upon the ability to have children naturally — thereby ignoring the thousands of Texas households raising kids with same-sex parents, or even single parent households.

• The ruling holds Texas’ laws are “rationally related to the legitimate state interest in fostering the best possible environment for procreation and child-raising.”  Evidently to the exclusion of all others, and without a shred of evidence in the record — particularly since longitudinal studies have demonstrated that same-sex parents are as good as raising kids as straight couples.

—  John Wright