Gay sailor could be discharged despite repeal of 'Don't ask, don't tell'

The Fresno BeeMarch 31, 2011 

After President Barack Obama signed a law in December to repeal the military's 17-year-old "don't ask, don't tell" policy, Petty Officer 2nd Class Derek Morado hoped the new message from Lemoore Naval Air Station higher-ups would be something like "You're gay -- you can stay."

But Morado, who was outed by a fellow sailor in 2009, still faces discharge from the Navy. The 26-year-old sailor will appear at a hearing on the base today before a three-member panel that will recommend whether he should be discharged for homosexual conduct.

The hearing is not open to the public.

Although the law repealing the longtime policy was signed by Obama three months ago, it won't go into effect until 60 days after the president, defense secretary and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify that lifting the ban won't hurt the military's ability to fight.

Under "don't ask, don't tell," the military could not discriminate against homosexuals and lesbians who remained in the closet, but could discharge anyone who is openly gay.

Morado said he's heard that no one has been discharged from the military for being gay since October. He hopes not to be the first since then, because he wants to make the Navy his career.

"It's all I really know," he said. "I've done it since high school. I just want to keep doing it."

A gay rights group has publicized Morado's case, putting out a call for signatures from supporters that he can take to today's hearing.

"At least they'll know people are watching and he has supporters in the community who won't let it just happen," said Robin McGehee of Fresno, a director of GetEQUAL. "The fact that the Navy is trying to slide one more discharge in under the wire is disgusting, and must be called out for what it is -- blatant discrimination and bullying."

Morado said Wednesday he knew he had to hide his homosexuality when he enlisted in 2003 after graduating from a Sacramento high school. But his sexual orientation became public after he posted a photo of himself on his MySpace page kissing another man.

"He was just a friend, not a romantic interest," Morado said.

To read the complete article, visit www.fresnobee.com.

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