ABC News' Luis Martinez (@LMartinezABC) reports:
The first case of a gay servicemember being discharged since the signing of the law that begins the process of repealing the Don’t Tell, Don’t Ask Law involved an Airman who voluntarily outed himself to get out of the Air Force.
The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law barring gays from serving openly in the military is likely to be repealed in a few months, but until then the law still remains in effect.
Under the repeal law signed into law last December, DADT won’t be repealed until 60 days after Defense Secretary Gates, Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen and President Obama certify that the readiness of the force has not been affected. To that end, all of the services are in the midst of training their forces for what will change when repeal occurs. Top Pentagon officials have said they expect certification to occur in mid- summer; that will begin the 60 day clock to repeal.
But last night the Air Force confirmed that a DADT discharge had occurred on April 29. The news was surprising because last October, Gates had raised the bar so high for a DADT discharge to occur that none had occurred since then. Under Gates’ directive a servicemember’s discharge could only occur after consultation between the secretary of the relevant service, the Pentagon’s General Counsel and top personnel chief.
That was all done to prevent a gay servicemember from being discharged involuntarily under the law, but it didn’t prevent a servicemember from declaring themselves to be gay and wanting to leave the service and that’s exactly what happened in this case.
According to Air Force Spokesman Maj. Joel Harper on that date, “the Secretary of the Air Force approved the discharge of an Airman under the provisions of 10 USC 654, after coordination with the DoD General Counsel and the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. Each of these officials evaluated the case carefully, and concluded that separation was appropriate. The Airman in the case asked to be separated expeditiously. Until repeal occurs, 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' remains the law."
Harper said that, “In this instance, the Airman 1st Class made a statement that he was a homosexual. After making the statement but prior to the commander initiating separation action, the Airman wrote the Secretary of the Air Force asking to be separated. After the separation action was initiated, the individual was informed of the current status of the repeal of 'Don't ask Don't Tell,' and he reaffirmed to the Secretary of the Air Force that he desired his separation action be expeditiously processed."
Harper says the Air Force expects to finish its training on June 30th, and there have been no reports of problems with the training.
In a statement reacting to news of the discharge, Alexander Nicholson, the Executive Director of the advocacy group Servicemembers United said “this appears to be a classic case of someone simply trying to use the fact that the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' law is still technically on the books to get out of his or her service obligation.” However, he said “it shows why the DADT law is flawed and harms the military – it can also be abused to allow someone to receive expensive training and then skip out on their commitment to serve, or it can simply be used to quit the military early by forcing an early separation."