While President Obama’s signing of the legislative “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal was widely praised last year, open-service advocates have always been quick to point out that until the policy is officially retired, gay servicemembers remain at risk. This week Petty Officer 2nd Class Derek Morado faces a discharge hearing after being outed by a fellow officer in 2009 based on the content of his MySpace page — a hearing that is going ahead despite repeal being underway.
From The Bay Citizen:
“I got comfortable about my position and I decided to make my MySpace page public,” Petty Officer 2nd Class Derek Morado, 26, said in an interview.
“There are pictures of me at gay pride parades and festivals and one of myself and a casual friend kissing,” he said.
Morado, who grew up in Sacramento and is currently stationed at Naval Air Station Lemoore, outside Fresno, said he was initially surprised when his command wrote him up over a year ago for violating don’t ask, don’t tell — which forbids gays and lesbians from serving openly.
Morado breathed a sigh of relief when President Obama signed repeal legislation, thinking that DADT discharges had ended and he would be spared. Not so, it would seem.
A senior enlisted man in his ordnance and weapons unit turned him in, he said, and an admiral signed off on discharge proceedings. Once that happens, Morado said, “they have to go through with it.”
However, no members of the Navy will be discharged under “don’t ask, don’t tell” without approval of the secretary of the Navy, Lt. Myers Vasquez, a Navy spokesman at the Pentagon, said Wednesday.
Morado said that after he was outed, his job duties changed from making bombs to managing barracks.
Other sailors have told him they are on his side, he said.
“All I’ve gotten is support and shock that this is happening — nothing negative,” Morado said.
Morado said the hearing will be overseen by an administrative board of two officers and a senior petty officer.
The hearing will not be open to the public.
Navy officials are calling the matter “sensitive” and have said they are investigating further, explaining that they are unaware of the specifics of the case.
Last year, Secretary Gates announced tougher regulations related to DADT discharge proceedings while implementation of the repeal is underway, but this did not cover third-party outings and as such Morado’s case is still technically within the Navy’s jurisdiction to pursue.
GetEqual, a direct action group that has been publicizing Morado’s case, has a statement from Morado on the effect this situation has had on him:
This lengthy matter has been tearing me up; it has destroyed relationships and displaced loved ones who were relying on me. But even after the U.S. Government has made it clear they don’t want this law in effect the Navy has said that, because the paperwork has been submitted and the policy is technically still active, they have no choice but to continue.
I have been in the U.S. Navy since I graduated high school. It’s all I know and all I want to do. I have dreams of grandeur, hopes of retiring a young, highly-decorated, respected senior enlisted sailor. My resolve is weakened but not broken. I just have to place my fate in the hands of three strangers — strangers who I hope have strong moral convictions and like-minded sentiments to my own.
- Senate Votes to Repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”
- Senate to Hold Cloture Vote on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Repeal
- House Passes “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Repeal
- DADT Victims File New Lawsuit Seeking Reinstatement
- Military Leaders Testify on DADT Repeal During Senate Committee Hearings
UPDATE: A three-member military panel last night voted unanimously to allow Morado to retain his place in the Navy! Read more here.