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BREAKING: Highly Decorated Service Members Discharged Under “Don’t Ask” File in Federal Court

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 13, 2010
Trevor Thomas, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network: (616) 430-2030 or trevor@sldn.org
Eileen King, Morrison & Foerster: (212) 336-4309 or eking@mofo.com

Highly Decorated Service Members Discharged Under “Don’t Ask” File in Federal Court to Serve Again 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) and Morrison & Foerster LLP filed a complaint today against the United States government asking for the reinstatement of three service members discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT), the discriminatory law barring gay, lesbian and bisexual service members from serving honestly and with integrity.  The filing in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, also argues the current law and the regulations, policies, and guidance that implement it, are unconstitutional.  To read the filing visit: http://bit.ly/eZg5EL

Statement by Servicemembers Legal Defense Network Executive Director and Army Veteran Aubrey Sarvis:

“This filing is a shot across the bow as we prepare to pursue and sustain an aggressive far reaching litigation strategy if the Senate fails to act this month to repeal the law.  This dispute can be resolved by Congress or by the courts.  With this filing we put Congress on notice that a cadre of service members and our national legal team stand ready to litigate strategically around the country.  The plaintiffs are three service members who want to serve their country again.  They represent some of our best and brightest who were fired because of who they are, despite their decorated records.  More than 14,000 have already lost their jobs and the investigations and discharges still continue.  We are also preparing litigation on behalf of young people who would enter the armed forces to serve our country but for this terrible law.  Another suit we’re working on involves clients discharged under ‘Don’t Ask’ who want to enter the reserves or a guard unit, and we plan to file such cases early next year if Congress fails to act.  Clearly there is an urgent need for the Senate to act on legislation this week.”

Statement by Morrison & Foerster’s M. Andrew Woodmansee:

“Today we are asking the Court to allow these three brave Americans to fulfill the commitment they made years ago when they joined the military.  They simply want to serve their country, and it is fundamentally un-American to refuse their service merely because they are gay -- especially when our all-volunteer military is stretched thin as we fight wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  Throughout our nation's history, citizens have turned to the courts to remedy injustices when Congress would not act.  If the Senate will not meet its obligations by ending this unconstitutional law, we will ask the Court to step in to protect the rights of my clients as well as all men and women who wish to serve this country in the military."

ABOUT THE PLANTIFFS:

Plaintiff Michael D. Almy served for thirteen years in the United States Air Force, including four deployments to the Middle East.  He is a highly trained communications officer.  During his thirteen-year Air Force career, former Major Almy received numerous military awards and decorations.  In 2006, he was discharged from the Air Force under DADT.

Plaintiff Anthony J. Loverde served for seven years in the Air Force.  He is a trained C-130 Loadmaster and Precision Measurement Equipment Laboratory Technician.  During his seven-year Air Force career, former Staff Sergeant Loverde received numerous military awards and decorations.  In 2008, he was discharged from the Air Force under DADT.  He is currently a contractor serving in Iraq, doing effectively the same job with many of his old coworkers, as an openly gay man.

Plaintiff Jason D. Knight served for a total of five years in the United States Navy.  He is a trained Cryptological Technician Interpretive, Linguist.  During his five-year Navy career, former Petty Officer Second Class Knight received numerous military awards and decorations.  Mr. Knight has the unique distinction of being discharged twice under DADT.  In 2005, he was discharged from the Navy under DADT.  Mr. Knight was recalled to active duty in 2006 but was discharged again in 2007 under DADT.

AWARDS/DECORATIONS: Michael D. Almy

--Distinguished graduate,  Air Force ROTC  – 1992

--Officer of the Year for the entire group – 1999

--Air Force Achievement Medal – April 1999

--Air Force Commendation Medal – 1998

--Air Force Commendation Medal – February 2000

--Air Force Commendation Medal – October 2001

--Joint Service Commendation Medal – July 2003

--2004 Lt. Gen. Leo Marquez Communications-Electronics Award, Field Grade Manager Category

AWARDS/DECORATIONS: Anthony J. Loverde

--Air Medal with 1 oak leaf cluster

--Air Force Commendation Medal

--Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with 3 oak leaf clusters

--Air Force Good Conduct Medal

--National Defense Service Medal

--Global War on Terrorism Service Medal

--Air Force Overseas Ribbon: Long

--Air Force Expeditionary Service Ribbon with Gold Border

--Air Force Longevity Service

--Air Force NCO PME Graduate Ribbon

--Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon with 1 service star

--Air Force Training Ribbon

--Distinguished Graduate, Basic Loadmaster Course

--Distinguished Graduate, Airman Leadership School

--Airman Below-the-Zone promotion *Early promotion

AWARDS/DECORATIONS: Jason D. Knight

--Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal

--First Good Conduct Medal for Period Ending April 3, 2004

--National Defense Service Medal

--Global War on Terrorism Service Medal

--Navy Pistol Markmanship Medal

--Armed Forces Reserve Medal 2/”M” Devise

--Navy Good Conduct Medal

--Navy Rifle Sharpshooter Ribbon

--Sea Service Deployment Ribbon

--Navy and Marine Corps Overseas Service Ribbon

--Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal

--Member served in Imminent Danger Pay Area from September 11, 2006-April 18, 2007

--Mobilized in Support of Operation Enduring Freedom

LEGAL BACKGROUND:

The legal team will ask the Court to apply the so-called Witt standard and order that the plaintiffs be reinstated.  In the case of Air Force Maj. Margaret Witt, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit – which governs the Northern District of California – held that discharging a service member violates the Constitution unless: (1) the government advances “an important governmental interest;” (2) the government shows the intrusion “upon the personal and private life” of a service member “significantly furthers that interest;” and (3) the government shows the intrusion is “necessary to further that interest.”

Legal team biography: M. Andrew Woodmansee, Partner, Morrison & Foerster: http://bit.ly/9TG7WY

Legal team biography: Aaron Tax, Legal Director, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network: http://bit.ly/b2aCNm

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Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (www.sldn.org) is a national, non-profit legal services and policy organization dedicated to ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” A journalists’ guide is available here.

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  Michael D. Almy

Plaintiff Michael D. Almy

  Anthony J. Loverde

Plaintiff Anthony J. Loverde

Jason D. Knight

Plaintiff Jason D. Knight

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