Panel says gay sailor should stay in Navy

A gay sailor at Lemoore Naval Air Station said a Navy panel apparently agreed with his lawyer's argument that "don't ask, don't tell" is dead.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Derek Morado, 26, said he was "ecstatic" after the administrative panel's unanimous vote Thursday not to recommend his discharge from the Navy.

Lt. Alana Garas, a Navy spokeswoman at the Pentagon, said the panel's vote would not be made public under federal privacy laws.

The last time a service member was discharged for being gay was in November, the Pentagon said.

A gay rights group that publicized Morado's case said the panel's vote sets a precedent for the rest of the military.

"The best part is, he doesn't have to have this dark shadow over his head," said Robin McGehee of Fresno, a director of GetEQUAL.

The three-member panel of two officers and a senior petty officer met for several hours to hear arguments and evidence, then held a closed-door meeting for 25 minutes before announcing their unanimous vote, Morado said.

Although happy with the vote, Morado said he "was a little bit surprised," largely because military personnel typically support existing policy.

The Navy Personnel Command will now review the panel's decision, but Morado said his lawyer assured him the command can't reverse the decision and is unlikely to return it for further review.

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