Justice Department Asks Court To Throw Out Case Challenging Discriminatory Separation Pay Policy For Gay And Lesbian Veterans

May 10, 2011 6:25 pm

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ACLU Seeks Justice For Honorably Discharged Service Members In Ongoing Class Action Lawsuit

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WASHINGTON– The Department of Justice (DOJ) today filed a motion to dismiss a class action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of New Mexico which seeks full separation pay for service members who were honorably discharged but had their separation pay cut in half because of “homosexuality.” In the past six years, 142 honorably discharged veterans had their separation pay cut in half because of the discriminatory policy. The total amount of separation pay withheld from those veterans is approximately $2.1 million.

The lawsuit was filed in November 2010, before Congress repealed the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that barred gay or lesbian service members from the military. The lead plaintiff in the case is Richard Collins, a former staff sergeant in the Air Force who served for nine years until he was discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Collins was stationed at Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico. In its response, the DOJ states that the half-separation pay policy applies not only to those who engage in “Homosexual Conduct,” but also those discharged from the military for drug and alcohol abuse or being deemed a national security risk.

The following can be attributed to Joshua Block, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project:

“The government’s decision to contest these claims is baffling. These honorably discharged veterans were forced out of the military under the unconstitutional and discriminatory ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy, which is in the process of being repealed. All that these veterans are asking for is to receive the same separation pay that any other honorably discharged veteran would have received. It is outrageous to equate these service members with those who were discharged for threats to national security and drug abuse. The government’s treatment of these veterans is shameful and adds insult to injury.”

The following can be attributed to Laura Ives, staff attorney with the ACLU of New Mexico:

“The Department of Justice’s action today is profoundly disappointing. The government must treat our veterans with the fairness and dignity they deserve, especially if those veterans were discharged from the armed forces under a policy that is in the process of being dismantled for being unconstitutional.”

For more information on the ACLU’s case, please visit: www.aclu.org/lgbt-rights/collins-v-united-states-class-action-military-s…

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