Civilian lawyers for the Marine sergeant discharged Wednesday for posting critical comments about President Obama on Facebook say they will continue to fight his dismissal in civilian courts.
On Wednesday, Sgt. Gary Stein was given an “other than honorable” discharge from the Marine Corps for disparaging comments that included labeling President Obama an enemy.
The Marines said the comments by the nine-year veteran were detrimental to good order and discipline and violated military law. Because of the “other than honorable” discharge, Stein will be demoted to lance corporal and be ineligible for most federal veterans benefits.
The conservative U.S. Justice Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union say they will continue to fight Stein’s dismissal in federal courts.
They believe the Marine Corps overreached its authority and violated Stein’s First Amendments rights to free speech. Earlier this month, a federal judge denied their request for a temporary restraining order to block Stein’s dismissal.
Gary Kreep of the U.S. Justice Foundation told ABC News that, once Stein has transitioned out of the Marine Corps in a few weeks, “we’ll be amending the complaint to reflect a request for relief for his reinstatement to the Marine Corps. “ Kreep said his organization is committed to taking Stein’s case all the way to the Supreme Court if that’s what he wants.
David Loy, legal director of the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, confirmed that his organization would continue to pursue Stein’s case. He acknowledged that some of Stein’s language was “colorful and over the top,” but that he was speaking in a hypothetical abstract discussion when he said he would not follow a presidential order he considered unlawful.
Loy said Stein was “blowing off steam” and always said he would continue to do his job as a Marine even though he did not like President Obama. “He never said he wouldn’t do his job,” said Loy.
“You don’t lose your First Amendment speech rights in the military,” said Loy, who pointed to the precedent set by U.S. v. Wilcox. In that case, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces held that the First Amendment protected an Army paratrooper who identified himself as a white supremacist on a website.
Stein expressed his disappointment about his discharge on his Facebook page. ”I have spent the last 9 years honorably serving this great nation and the Corps,” wrote Stein. “Even though I will be discharged no one can take the title of Marine away from me. I thank my family and friends for their support and love. Today is just the start of the rest of my life. Semper Fi.”
Kreep said Stein’s case has united groups from across the political spectrum because “free speech and due process rights are important.” He added, ” It shows people who disagree on a variety of issues can come together, and that’s what we’re doing.”
Loy agreed noting that the ACLU works to defend civil liberties without regard to political affiliations.