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Servicemembers Legal Defense Network

JULY 17, 2006
12:02 PM

CONTACT: Servicemembers Legal Defense Network
Steve Ralls, 202-328-3244 ext. 116,

Navy Discharging Service Member Who Attended New York Gay Marriage Rally; Ten Year Veteran Faces 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Discharge

WASHINGTON - July 17 - The United States Navy has initiated discharge proceedings against a 10-year veteran who attended a June 3 rally in support of same-sex marriage on New York's Brooklyn Bridge. Rhonda Davis, a petty officer first class journalist in the Navy, attended the rally and subsequently gave an interview to local radio station 1010WINS where she identified herself as a member of the Navy. Davis also endorsed same-sex marriage and indicated in her interview that she was looking forward to someday marrying her partner of more than three years. On June 5, Davis' command informed her that, after being made aware of the interview by callers to the office where she is stationed, they were forced to discharge her under the law, which prohibits openly lesbian, gay and bisexual personnel from serving in the armed forces.

"Petty Officer Davis's case highlights the double-standard 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' forces gay men and women to serve under," said Sharra E. Greer, director of law and policy for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), which is representing Davis. "While heterosexual military personnel can proclaim their love from the San Francisco Bridge to the Brooklyn Bridge without consequence, lesbian or gay service members who do the same are sent packing because their proclamation is about someone of the same gender. As a result, the Navy is now losing the talents and dedication of a ten-year veteran simply because of federally sanctioned homophobia."

The Department of Defense has discharged more than 11,000 service members since 1993 under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), more than 800 of those service members were trained in skills deemed "mission-critical" by the Pentagon. A Blue Ribbon panel recently estimated the cost of the ban at more than $363.8 million.

"I am a proud, patriotic American who happens to be gay," Davis said. "My sexual orientation has never stood in the way of getting my job done, and I was looking forward to continuing my Navy career. Unfortunately, federal law places discrimination ahead of national security and gay service members are caught in the crossfire. It is past time for our leaders in Washington to repeal this senseless law and allow gay Americans who want to serve, like me, the opportunity to do just that."

Congressional legislation to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is pending in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Military Readiness Enhancement Act (H.R. 1059), introduced by Rep. Marty Meehan (D-MA) in 2005, is currently supported by 119 Members of Congress from both parties.


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