The U.S. Court of Federal Claims yesterday denied the government’s request to throw out a class action suit challenging the Defense Department’s discriminatory separation pay policy for gay and lesbian veterans. The case, Collins v. United States, was filed by the ACLU and seeks to equalize separation pay for honorably discharged service members, regardless of their sexual orientation.
Currently, the military pays honorably discharged service members who have served at least six years an amount to ease their transition into civilian life, a policy approved by Congress. An internal DoD policy, however, allows the military to slash the amount of separation pay in half for service members honorably discharged for “homosexuality.”
According to the ACLU, this policy remains in place despite the fully implemented repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Richard Collins, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, was a decorated Air Force Staff Sergeant for nine years before being kicked out under DADT. He was seen kissing his civilian boyfriend while off duty, out of uniform, and 10 miles from base. After being discharged, Staff Sgt. Collins discovered that his separation pay was cut in half.
“The court’s decision means that these 142 service members [in the suit] will finally have their day in court. The government will have to explain to them and to the rest of the public how cutting their pay in half served important governmental interests. The government will have to make that explanation, even though the Pentagon has already issued a detailed report making clear that discrimination against gay and lesbian service members is entirely unnecessary and doesn’t serve the interests of the military,” wrote Joshua Block, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project, in a blog post.
The case will now move forward through the justice system.