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Congress Introduces New DADT Bill as Discharged Vets File Suit

By L.K. Regan

Last week, as we know you're aware, the U.S. Senate refused to repeal DADT via amendment to the defense authorization bill. Now both the Senate and the House have introduced stand-alone bills to make one last effort during the lame-duck session of congress. And they'd better hope they succeed or the matter will be settled in court, where a group of discharged vets have filed suits claiming a violation of their civil rights.

Immediately in the wake of the devastating failure on the part of the Senate to repeal DADT last week, a group of senators made a pledge to develop a stand-alone bill that would end the ban on gays in the military. That bill, S. 4022, was introduced last week under the title, "A bill to provide for the repeal of the Department of Defense policy concerning homosexuality in the Armed Forces known as 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.'" The bill was sponsored by Connecticut Independent Joseph Lieberman, and co-sponsored by Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mark Udall (D-Co.), and the only Republican who had voted for the repeal the last time, Susan Collins (R-Me.).

This week has seen the House of Representatives follow suit with the introduction of an identical bill. Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.) introduced the bill on Tuesday with the full support of the House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). Hoyer is acting as a co-sponsor of the bill, and is confident of its passage in his House, though tactfully guarded about the chances in the notoriously sclerotic Senate. "I'm hopeful that it will pass handily through the House," he told reporters, "and then I'm hopeful that the Senate will take it up." Uh-huh.

For those not inclined to hold their breath waiting on the Senate, there is hope from another front: the courts. In federal court in San Francisco on Monday three former military servicemen (two Air Force and one Navy) who were discharged under DADT filed suit demanding to be reinstated. They include former Air Force Staff Sergeant Anthony Loverde; former Air Force Major Michael Almy; and former Navy Petty Officer Jason Knight. They are represented by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, whose director, Aubrey Sarvis, considers his suit a warning to Congress: either take care of DADT repeal yourselves, or have it imposed on you by a court. "This filing is a notice to the Senate and the U.S. government that if the Senate fails to act in the lame duck session, we are prepared to litigate this aggressively," Sarvis said. "From my perspective, this is the first shot over the bow."

For former Staff Sergeant Loverde, the issue is simple. "I don't feel like I'm going against the military, I really don't," he said. "I believe the military, the majority of troops I've served with and those who have studied to death, are with us."