RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) — If the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy were lifted today, Mike Almy would not think twice about returning to the Air Force.
The former major who was fired in 2006 for being gay will testify Thursday in federal court in Riverside during a non-jury trial that is presenting the biggest constitutional test in recent years to the military's policy banning openly gay service members.
Almy is one of two former service members scheduled to testify this week on behalf of the lawsuit filed by the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay rights organization challenging the policy's constitutionality. Lawyers for the group are seeking a federal injunction to immediately halt the policy banning openly gay service members.
The case has put the Obama administration in the awkward position of defending a policy the president is pushing Congress to repeal.
More than 13,500 service members have been fired under the law since 1994.
Almy was dismissed after a routine computer search turned up personal e-mails he wrote while deployed in Iraq. After the e-mails were given to his commander, he was handed discharge papers marked "homosexual admission" as the reason
"Despite this treatment, my greatest desire is still to return to active duty as an officer and leader in the United States Air Force, protecting the freedoms of a nation that I love; freedoms that I myself was not allowed to enjoy while serving in the military," Almy wrote in an April 26, 2010 letter to President Obama asking him to overturn the law.
Jenny L. Kopfstein, a decorated Navy officer from San Diego who was discharged in 2002 after telling her commanding officer she was gay, will testify Friday.
Log Cabin Republican members have spoken on behalf of an active gay serviceman whom lawyers said decided not to risk being discharged for appearing in court, lawyers say. His name will not be released.
Government attorneys say the issue should be decided by Congress and not in a federal courtroom in Southern California.
In deciding to hear the challenge, U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips said the "possibility that action by the legislative and executive branches will moot this case is sufficiently remote."
The plaintiff's attorney, Dan Woods argued the policy violates the rights of gay military members to free speech, due process and open association.
"Don't ask, don't tell" prohibits the military from asking about the sexual orientation of service members but requires discharge of those who acknowledge being gay or are discovered to be engaging in homosexual activity, even in the privacy of their own homes off base.
The case is unique in that it is not based on an individual's complaint but rather is a broad, sweeping attack on the policy.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.
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