Air Force Lt. Col. sues to block 'don't ask' discharge
Updated 5:24 p.m. ET
One of the highest-ranking military officers investigated for violating the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy filed suit on Wednesday in an effort to block the Air Force from discharging him.
Air Force Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach filed a request for a temporary restraining order in U.S. District Court in Idaho, arguing a discharge will cause him irreparable harm and that the government cannot prove that his continued service hinders “morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion.” It's one of the first cases to use a legal line of reasoning established in a 2008 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in the case of an Air Force Major who challenged the gay ban.
Fehrenbach flew almost 90 combat missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kosovo, but has been on desk duty at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho since 2008, when the Air Force launched an investigation into allegations that he sexually assaulted a civilian and violated "don't ask, don't tell."
“In the two years that I’ve been sitting at my desk rather than inside my jet, I’ve offered to deploy numerous times," Fehrenbach said Wednesday. "I’m ready, willing, and able to deploy tomorrow, but I’m barred from deployment, because of this unjust, discriminatory law."
The Air Force Personnel Board is still reviewing Fehrenbach’s case and government lawyers are reviewing his request for an injunction, the Air Force said Thursday. Fehrenbach, his lawyers and the nonpartisan Servicemembers Legal Defense Fund are calling on Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley to retain Fehrenbach regardless of the board’s decision.
SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis said the Senate should follow the House and act quickly to pass the annual defense spending bill, which includes a repeal of "don't ask, don't tell."
"Why and how the hell do we end up firing our best and brightest when we’re fighting in two wars?" Sarvis said Wednesday. "If Secretary Donley does not step in, this nation will lose a service member worth $25 million in training whose skill sets are desperately needed today."
The case comes as the Log Cabin Republicans await a ruling in their constitutional challenge to "don't ask, don't tell" in federal court in California. A ruling in the group's favor would suspend the military's ability to discharge troops under the policy.
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| August 12, 2010; 6:10 AM ET
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