Sailor Files Lawsuit to Stop Discharge Based on Homosexuality
SEATTLE (AP) _ The Navy is violating a homosexual sailor’s constitutional rights by continuing to try to discharge him while President Clinton prepares to drop the ban on gays in the military, a lawsuit said.
Petty Officer Mark Philips, who served on the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier, filed the lawsuit Friday in U.S. District Court to halt discharge proceedings based on his sexual orientation.
He faces an administrative discharge hearing on Wednesday.
Last week, Clinton temporarily suspended the formal discharge of homosexuals from the military and announced that new recruits would no longer be asked if they are gay. Clinton ordered the Defense Department to produce a draft executive order by July 15 that would formally end the ban on gays.
In a compromise with opponents, Clinton agreed to have discharge proceedings continue for service members who have acknowledged their homosexuality. But final discharges would be suspended until congressional hearings are held and a decision is made on the status of the ban.
Active duty members of the military processed for discharge would be placed on standby reserve, losing all pay, medical and dental benefits, and meal and housing privileges.
Continuing discharge proceedings during the six-month moratorium violates Philips’ right to equal protection and free speech, said his attorney, Jett Whitmer.
The lawsuit against the Navy and Defense Department seeks a temporary injunction to halt Wednesday’s hearing. If Judge William Dwyer grants the temporary injunction, Philips will seek a permanent injunction against discharge proceedings against him, Whitmer said.
The U.S. attorney’s office in Seattle, which is handling the case for the Defense Department, did not immediately return a telephone call Friday night.
Last week, a federal judge in San Francisco ruled in the case of gay sailor Keith Meinhold, 30, that the military’s ban on gays violates the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection.
Under Clinton’s order, Philips may stay in the military but he could lose his status as a machinist mate on a nuclear aircraft carrier. The outcome could set a precedent for other cases of gay and lesbian service members who are being processed for discharge, Whitmer said.
Philips, who has served four years in the Navy, was transferred from the USS Nimitz to Naval Station Puget Sound in Seattle after he disclosed his homosexuality in November. The move cut $300 from his paycheck, compensation for professional and at-sea duties.
″I’m not just standing by and letting this happen,″ Philips, 22, an Iowa native, said Friday. ″If they put me in standby reserve status it will cause irreparable damage to my military career.″