Ex-officer testifies in military gay policy trial

Former Maj. Mike Almy says homosexual troops no detriment to his unit

Published July 16, 2010 6:42PM (EDT)

A former Air Force officer who was discharged for being gay has taken the stand in the federal trial of a lawsuit challenging the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

Former Maj. Mike Almy testified Friday that he was an award-winning communications officer who served alongside foreign forces that have openly gay members.

Almy says the gay troops were absolutely no detriment to the mission of his unit, which accepted them.

The lawsuit being heard by a U.S. District Court judge in Riverside, Calif., was brought by the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay rights organization.

The suit seeks an injunction to halt use of the policy.

The lawsuit puts the government in the position of defending the policy even as President Barack Obama is pushing Congress to repeal it.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) -- Two military officers who were discharged because of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy will testify during the federal trial of a lawsuit posing the biggest constitutional challenge in recent years to the military's policy banning openly gay service members.

The lawsuit filed by the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay rights organization, seeks a federal injunction to immediately halt the policy.

The officers are expected to testify Friday in the case, which 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 "don't ask, don't tell" since 1994.

Mike 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 policy.

Jenny L. Kopfstein, a decorated Navy officer from San Diego who was discharged in 2002 after telling her commanding officer she was gay, was also expected to testify Friday during the trial.

Government attorneys say the issue should be decided by Congress and not in the federal courtroom in Riverside, Calif.

The U.S. House has voted to repeal the policy, and the Senate is expected to take up the issue this summer.

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.

By Julie Watson

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Lgbt U.s. Military