ACLU files suit over military discharge pay policy

[JURIST] The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] filed a class action lawsuit [complaint, PDF; press release] Wednesday over a US military policy that cuts the separation pay of honorably discharged gay and lesbian service members in half. The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of all service members involuntarily discharged in the last six years who were otherwise eligible to receive full separation pay, but instead received only half as a result of the separation pay policy. In the complaint, filed in the US Court of Federal Claims [official website], the ACLU challenged the policy, which the Department of Defense [official website] adopted in 1991, two years before Congress enacted the "Don't Ask Don't Tell Policy" (DADT) [10 USC § 654; JURIST news archive]. The plaintiffs contend the pay policy discriminates against homosexuals because, under federal law [10 USC § 1174], all service members are entitled to separation pay if they have been involuntarily discharged after completing at least six years of service. Joshua Block, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project stated, "[b]y denying servicemen and women full separation pay, the military is needlessly compounding the discrimination perpetuated by 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell." The separation pay policy, unlike DADT, can be changed without congressional approval.

The Obama administration filed a brief [text, PDF; JURIST report] Wednesday asking the US Supreme Court [official website] not to rescind the stay preventing suspension of DADT. The filing is in response to a petition filed last week [text; JURIST report] by the Log Cabin Republicans [advocacy website] asking the court to overturn the indefinite extension [order, PDF; JURIST report] of a temporary stay [JURIST report] issued by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website]. The government asked the court not to interrupt the policy while it is being considered in lower courts. The filing noted that President Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates oppose the policy, but also stressed their support for the repeal of the policy through legislative measures, citing the need for deliberation, advance planning and training before transitioning from the 17-year-old policy. Since the enactment of DADT in 1993, approximately 13,000 servicemen and women have been discharged from the armed forces as a result of the policy.

 

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