Judge Could Deny Request On 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'
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As NPR's Rachel Martin reports, all this legal back and forth has left gay service members more than a bit confused.
RACHEL MARTIN: For the past few weeks, Ashley Scheideberg's job has been to sit in a small closet of an office and field calls from her group's Don't Ask Don't Tell hotline. She keeps a running tally of who's calling, and why.
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MONTAGNE: It started from right around here, when the injunction came through. And then we've been getting quite a few emails as well.
MARTIN: Scheideberg is a legal advocate for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. Aaron Tax is the group's legal director. He says the injunction, issued by Judge Virginia Phillips, has triggered two main questions from troops already discharged under the ban.
MONTAGNE: And they're asking, when can I rejoin the military?
MARTIN: And from those still serving.
MONTAGNE: And they want to know what the injunction - what the court ruling means for them, and they want to find out if it's safe to come out.
MARTIN: The answer to that, he says, is no.
MONTAGNE: There are the shifting sands of the legal process, and it's hard to tell where it's going to go from here. And given that the law is currently in flux, the safest thing for service members to do is to not come out at this time.
MARTIN: The Pentagon is saying the same thing. Late last week, the military's top personnel official sent out a memo, saying: Yes, the military will abide by the judge's ruling to stop enforcing Don't Ask Don't Tell, but that doesn't mean gay troops should start going public. The memo went on to say that if service members quote, alter their personal conduct in this legally uncertain environment, it may have adverse consequences. In other words, sit tight - not a message that sits well with many gay service members.
MARTIN: They can't let this limbo go on, because there's too many people right now, like me, with pending discharges, or too many people that want to stop lying about themselves.
MARTIN: That's Lieutenant Colonel Victor Fehrenbach, an Air Force combat pilot with more than 19 years of service under his belt.
MARTIN: You know, I was born on an Air Force Base. The Air Force has been my life. My dad was 20 years in the Air Force. My mother was a nurse in the Air Force. My sister served in the Air Force. You know, we basically bleed blue in my family. And I always knew that I wanted to serve my country, and I wanted to do that in the Air Force.
MARTIN: He's filed a lawsuit to prevent being discharged, and the recent injunction has landed him in Don't Ask Don't Tell limbo. Fehrenbach blames President Obama, who's promised to end Don't Ask Don't Tell, even though his Justice Department is defending the policy.
MARTIN: To allow a policy to continue that he admits - the president admits - harms national security; he admits that it is discriminatory; and he admits that is unconstitutional. I just don't understand how he can continue to allow it to happen.
MARTIN: Rachel Martin, NPR News, Washington.
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