ACLU Appears in Federal Court to Challenge Military Separation Pay Policy that Discriminates Against Lesbian and Gay Veterans

September 22, 2011

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union argued before the U.S. Court of Federal Claims today that a Defense Department policy that cuts in half the separation pay of service members who have been honorably discharged for being gay is discriminatory and unconstitutional. The ACLU filed a class action lawsuit against the policy, which is not part of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" statute and so was not changed when that law was repealed. The Defense Department can change the policy on its own, without congressional approval.

The government has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, but has not defended the separation pay policy as constitutional. Instead, the government argues that even if the policy were unconstitutional, the court cannot award gay and lesbian service members any judicial relief.

“The government is too embarrassed to defend the constitutionality of its policy in open court, so it is inventing new reasons to deny these service members justice,” said Joshua Block, staff attorney for the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project, who argued the case. “These veterans served their country honorably and deserve the full recognition and benefits that are afforded to other service members. The sums they seek are small to the military, but make a huge difference when readjusting to civilian life.”

“These veterans lost their livelihoods when they were forcibly discharged from the armed forces because of a policy that was so outrageous it has since been sent to the dustbin of history,” said Laura Schauer Ives, staff attorney for the ACLU of New Mexico. “There is no reason to add insult to injury and discriminate against these service members yet again by subjecting them to the indignity of denying them their full separation pay.”

More information on the case is available at:

www.aclu.org/lgbt-rights/collins-v-united-states-class-action-military-s...
 

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