Thursday, May 22, 2008

Court Issues Ruling on Gays in the Military

Less than one week after a California Court overturned the ban on same-sex marriages in the state, a Seattle Court has issued a ruling in supporting gay rights in regards to the military. The decision, issued yesterday, prevents the military from discharging a person based solely on the fact that they are gay.

According to the article, the Seattle Court is the first appellate court to issue a ruling “that evaluates ‘don't ask, don't tell’ in light of Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court's 2003 decision that struck down that state's ban on gay sex as an unconstitutional intrusion into people's privacy”. While not striking down the law, the Court has stated that the Air Force must provide evidence that Major Margaret Witt, the Plaintiff in the case, was dismissed for other reasons than merely being gay. The Court has stated that, “the Air Force must prove that her dismissal furthered the military's stated goals of troop readiness and unit cohesion.”

Prior to the ruling in Lawrence, it was not uncommon for the Courts to rule on the side of the military, which often argued that having homosexuals in the military was bad for morale and gave rise to potential sexual tension. After Lawrence, the military is now required to meet a stricter standard of proof on a case-by-case basis. This ruling, applying the applicable post-Lawrence standard, opens the door for other discharged servicemen and women to bring challenges in Federal Court of improper discharge due to being gay.

Much like the gay marriage decision ruling from California, this does not appear to be the end of the issue. California’s ruling has at least temporarily provided an automatic method for homosexuals to take advantage of the ruling without any additional requirements – they merely need to take the already established steps to obtain a marriage license and have a wedding performed; until an amendment (which is apparently being prepared in hopes of being placed on the November ballot) is made to the State Constitution, this right will remain. For those challenging their discharge from the military, they are required to file suit in Federal Court and have their matter heard; while this is the same procedure any person filing a similar grievance is required to follow, it remains to be seen how the military will argue, and the Courts will rule, in these discharge grievances filed by gay servicemen and women.

Obviously, homosexuals, or any people, marrying and serving in the military are two entirely different issues. When marrying, there are concerns about health benefits, probate and other items that are inherent to marriage and this gives rise to issues that are absent when speaking about serving in the military. When serving in the military, it is more akin to a job and earning benefits through that job. If the person is capable at doing this job, it would seem that you would want to continue employing that person, especially in a position dealing with national security and in a field that is starting to decrease in its recruitment. For me, it would seem that it would be similar to working alongside a person of another religious denomination with beliefs totally contrary to those of my own; as long as they perform their job as required and do not cause chaos in the work area, I can see no reason to let them go merely due to their beliefs. Admittedly, I have never served in the military, so I may very well be missing some nuances of serving in the military regarding working alongside either a gay serviceman or woman and the impact they would have on my ability to perform my duties. However, it seems unlikely that merely serving aside a gay serviceman or woman would be enough to entirely disrupt the operations of others, and as such it seems unlikely that being discharged for merely being gay is inappropriate. Therefore, it is hoped that Courts seriously consider the merits of these discharges, and force the armed forces services to reconsider their policies.

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