A decorated former staff-sergeant in
the U.S. Air Force booted under “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” is suing
the federal government after he was denied full separation pay.
Richard Collins was honorably
discharged in 2006 for violating the policy that bans gay troops from
serving openly, ending his military career of 9 years.
Separation pay is given to service
members who served at least 6 years but were involuntarily
discharged. The compensation is cut in half for gay or bisexual
service members discharged for violating the policy. The 19-year-old
policy went into effect two years before “Don't Ask, Don't Tell.”
The American Civil Liberties Union
(ACLU) filed the lawsuit on behalf of Collins.
“By denying servicemen and women full
separation pay, the military is needlessly compounding discrimination
perpetuated by 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,'” Joshua Block, staff
attorney with the ACLU Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender
Project, said in a statement.
The separation pay policy was not
enacted by Congress. The ACLU said the Defense Department has
refused their repeated requests to alter the policy.
“The Obama administration has
repeatedly said the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' statute is wrong, but
that it needs to work with Congress to repeal the law. But the
separation pay issue is entirely within the administration's control.
The administration can at least take a preliminary step toward
backing up its rhetoric with action by addressing this issue promptly
and protecting gay and lesbian service members from needless
Collins, who was stationed at Cannon
Air Force Base in New Mexico, was dismissed after two civilian
co-workers witnessed him kiss his boyfriend in a car stopped at an
intersection. The incident happened off-base and Collins was not in
“After nine years of honorable
service, it's not fair that I should be deprived of the same benefits
given to other dedicated service members who are adjusting to
civilian life,” Collins said.
GOP group Log Cabin Republicans has asked the Supreme Court to
reinstate a lower court's ruling setting aside the policy as the
government appeals the case.