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Loomis v. Unites States of America
July 8, 2003 6:22 PM   Subscribe

The first lawsuit in the wake of Lawrence v. Texas was filed today.

Lieutenant Colonel Steve Loomis is a decorated Vietnam combat veteran and recipient of the Purple Heart, who was eight days away from his twenty year retirement date and a million dollar pension, when an arsonist set fire to his home. A private sex tape involving Loomis was found during the arson investigation, and turned over to the Army.

Shortly there after LTC Loomis was discharged, losing his pension, because he was gay. His complaint[PDF] seeks to reverse his 1997 discharge.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood (46 comments total)

 
I need to read all that over again to make a more informed comment, but I'm going to comment anyway. It strikes me he has a case if the new SCOTUS decision is considered. First off, sodomy is now legal, secondly it violates equal protection to have laws that only apply to certain groups of people. Heterosexuals don't have to hide their sexuality, only homosexuals do. The military rules regarding homosexuality are clearly a legal double standard that is now exposed to litigation.
good to see you steve
posted by elwoodwiles at 6:30 PM on July 8, 2003


Good for him, I hope he wins. Laws that discriminate based on sexual orientation should be banished to the land of separate entrances for blacks. Who cares what adults do with their sex lives.
posted by SweetJesus at 6:39 PM on July 8, 2003


"The law requires lesbian, gay and bisexual service members to keep their sexual orientation an absolute secret or face the risk of discharge."

Based on my understanding of this case, it appears that LTC Loomis DID keep his sexual orientation and activity a secret, and only through sheer disaster/tragedy (the fire) was his "secret" revealed. As far as the article goes, at no time did LTC Loomis tell anyone anything about his sex life.

Based on that (and we may be missing some key points, but...), I think that he has a good case.
posted by davidmsc at 6:42 PM on July 8, 2003


He broke the rules, he should go get AIDS and die.

I disagree. I hope he wins, although I am rather suspicious of the fact it took six years for him to file.
posted by wackybrit at 6:44 PM on July 8, 2003


I'm not happy that he broke the rules, but that rule-breaking should be treated with a lesser sanction than it was.

Wipe out a 20 year military career for such a minor offence? Nonsense.

p.s. I'm not in favor of the rule as it stands, but we can't have our servicemen pick and choose which rules to follow.
posted by revbrian at 6:47 PM on July 8, 2003


Wacky, I think he was motivated by the recent SCOTUS decision. Before last week his case wouldn't have enough precedent to go very far.
posted by elwoodwiles at 6:49 PM on July 8, 2003


Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) is the law which all members of the military live under, even when off duty. UCMJ is an extension of federal law. So since SCOTUS has ruled that there is a zone of privacy (sexual privacy?) that protects sodomy and sex in general, the anti-sodomy section of UCMJ should be deemed stuck down as well.

although I am rather suspicious of the fact it took six years for him to file.

Lower courts has upheld "Don't ask, Don't tell" under Bowers v. Hardwick, which was revered by Lawrence v. Texas. LTC Loomis basically had no case until the Lawrence ruling, that is why he waited.

/me waves back at elwoodwiles
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 6:51 PM on July 8, 2003


He broke the rules, he should go get AIDS and die.

um, who said that? wackbrit seems to be quoting it, but i don't see where anybody said it. is wackybrit yanking my crank or did the censor visit before me?
posted by quonsar at 7:07 PM on July 8, 2003


quonsar: You win a small treat for your observational skills. And, nice to see you're back and posting again!
posted by wackybrit at 7:12 PM on July 8, 2003


S_at_L: I think the courts have generally ruled that members of the military do not enjoy the same "zone of privacy" that civilians do.
posted by reverendX at 7:14 PM on July 8, 2003


I wish him luck in this...don't ask, don't tell is a terrible policy and should be eliminated, but don't the courts give the military more leeway than other elements of government?
posted by amberglow at 7:15 PM on July 8, 2003


I think the post he quoted went down the memory hole.
posted by RylandDotNet at 7:16 PM on July 8, 2003


Under the UCMJ, it's plain illegal to be homosexual. It's cause for discharge to even SAY you're homosexual, even without ever having perfomed any type of illegal sexual act.

So, having said that, I think Lawrence vs. Kansas has very little to do with the military. As much as this is a tragedy for the LTC, I don't think he really has a case, as reverendX points out.
posted by taumeson at 7:16 PM on July 8, 2003


I think Lawrence vs. Kansas has very little to do with the military.

True. But Lawrence vs. Texas may.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 7:18 PM on July 8, 2003


I wish him luck in this...don't ask, don't tell is a terrible policy and should be eliminated

Ah, but is it more terrible than telling and then being segregated? Therein lays the problem. Does the Army split up gay and homosexual troops? If not, then why don't men and women sleep in the same dorms? If you do split them up, then is it fair to segregate? It's a rather thorny issue.
posted by wackybrit at 7:27 PM on July 8, 2003


wackybrit, there already are gays and lesbians sleeping in the same dorms.

The only difference would be that they wouldn't have to be closeted as they are now.
posted by amberglow at 7:33 PM on July 8, 2003


If someone spat in your dinner, and didn't tell you, you'd eat your dinner much like you would normally. If someone spat in your dinner and told you, you would think twice before eating it, or eat around the spit.

If you were a man and knew someone in your dorm was gay, you might, quite rationally, feel as uncomfortable as a woman would feel with men sleeping in the same dorm as her.
posted by wackybrit at 7:57 PM on July 8, 2003


just because some heterosexuals may be uncomfortable or get freaked out is no reason to discriminate.
posted by amberglow at 8:02 PM on July 8, 2003


That's the argument that's made Mark McGrath a star.
posted by dong_resin at 8:05 PM on July 8, 2003


As Bill Hicks said:

1. Anyone dumb enough to want to be in the military should be able to.
2. The military are hired killers and have no ability to morally condemn anybody.
posted by Hildago at 8:25 PM on July 8, 2003


Wackybrit,
I think the separation of men and women in the army has very little to do with sexual preferences and a lot to do with biological, physiological and psychological differences. Men and women have different hormones, different body functions and different social tendencies. A gay man in a straight barrack has, despite his sexual preference, a Y chromosome, a tendency NOT to ovulate/menstruate, and the practiced ability to socialize with groups of straight men since, his entire life, from PE class to his college dorm he has been immersed in social situations where, while in the sexual-preference minority, he has learned to be "just one of the guys." Believe you me, a gay man's likelihood of lunging at a straight guy in the neighboring cot is as likely as a straight guy lunging after a straight girl in a math class: we don't because we are socialized and fully capable of controlling our hormones. To think otherwise is anything but rational.
posted by adrober at 8:26 PM on July 8, 2003


If I knew someone in my barracks - say, the next guy over - was a fervent Jehovah's Witness, I might, quite rationally, feel very uncomfortable: When might he embark on a conversation I don't want to be involved in? What if it escalated, to shouting, and personal threats? What would I do if he started speaking in tongues?

So, what, I get to bar all JWs from the military because of my discomfort?
posted by soyjoy at 8:31 PM on July 8, 2003


That's the argument that's made Mark McGrath a star.

If he's a star, how come I've never heard of him?

I also think that the Loomis outcome will depend to an extent in which court this suit is filed, and which judge is assigned to hear it.
posted by billsaysthis at 8:33 PM on July 8, 2003


They should just put everybody in the same barracks and thoroughly enforce no-sex-type stuff rules (and no sexual harrassment rules) between ANY members of the same unit.

If the individuals are uncomfortable with this they can either not join the military or they can join and learn to live with it. If in their military career their greatest discomfort is sleeping in the same room as someone who may be sexually interested in them, then they'll have an easy career.
posted by obfusciatrist at 8:34 PM on July 8, 2003


While the UCMJ may not afford the same 'zone of privacy', it is still held to the equal protection clause. Justice O'Connor's concurring opinion based on equal protection may well prove relevant.
posted by Cerebus at 8:35 PM on July 8, 2003


If the individuals are uncomfortable with this they can either not join the military or they can join and learn to live with it. If in their military career their greatest discomfort is sleeping in the same room as someone who may be sexually interested in them, then they'll have an easy career.


I'm just one of those military guys and everything but I have no problem with whatever people want to do in their own time. There are quite a few, though I won't say most that agree with me, and if necessary, the problem would be dealt with the same way integration of females into the Navy was: legislate it until military types get used to it or leave. But the military doesn't really determine that, its mainly congress that draws up the rules. So if you want us to change, talk to them. They're the ones in a position to actually do something about it.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 8:53 PM on July 8, 2003


From my experience in the military, "Don't ask, don't tell" is really a joke. On our ship, there were plenty of guys who were gay and everyone (including our department head) knew it. Fact is, they were good sailors and their sexual orientation did not affect their performance or their interaction with the rest of the department. And I'm sure our ship was not an exception. On the other hand, if someone wanted to get out of the Navy, all he had to do was write a letter stating he was gay and it was a free ticket out. A much less painless way to do it than some of the alternatives.

So, what, I get to bar all JWs from the military because of my discomfort?

I get your point, but I'm pretty sure Jehovah's Witnesses don't condone military service. They're the folks who cover up the New Hampshire "Live Free Or Die" license plate mottos. I remember back in '91 Lou Whitaker of the Detroit Tigers covered up his American flag that the rest of the league was wearing in honor of the troops. How's that for off topic?
posted by greasepig at 9:15 PM on July 8, 2003


Hard to understand, with everything else ethically indefensible about "serving" in the military, that anyone would voluntarily choose to become an automaton in a craven organization that would treat other human beings in this way.

Really puts the lie to the propaganda of the military defending "freedom". Absolutely despicable.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 10:48 PM on July 8, 2003


It is a nice post, Steve.
posted by y2karl at 11:44 PM on July 8, 2003


He broke the rules, he should go get AIDS and die
posted by whatever at 1:20 AM on July 9, 2003


I have to agree with what y2Karl said, a good post steve, maybe a tad leftfield for yourself, or perhaps that is just my prejudices.
posted by johnnyboy at 1:26 AM on July 9, 2003


1. Anyone dumb enough to want to be in the military should be able to.
2. The military are hired killers and have no ability to morally condemn anybody


..."serving" in the military, that anyone would voluntarily choose to become an automaton in a craven organization that would treat other human beings in this way

Brilliant examples of ignorance.
posted by a3matrix at 4:56 AM on July 9, 2003


Same troll, different post.
posted by Cyrano at 6:17 AM on July 9, 2003


Yeah, Steve, pleasantly surprised at the evenhanded tone of your FPP. Thank you.

I have always been baffled by the fear of homosexuality in the military. It has never made sense to me that someone would consider it a problem that the person next to him/her might be attracted to him/her. What evil thing would happen if they were? Makes zero sense to me.

It is amazing and heartening to see all these gay issues coming to the forefront of public consciousness. It looks like a greater part of the American public is moving towards tolerance in more and more areas, and it is thrilling to feel like the injustices of sexual orientation-based discrimination are going to be recognized and eliminated. I would imagine this is what it felt like when critical mass was being reached for the ending of (legal) racial segregation as well.
posted by widdershins at 6:32 AM on July 9, 2003


Steve-
I'm not surprised by the even-handedness of your tone. It's good to see you back on MeFi, even if you tend to be wrong about everything on which you disagree with me.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 7:27 AM on July 9, 2003


Steve--Good to see you back.

Foldy--Get a life. Or rather, get a life more expansive beyond trolling in an interesting and evenhanded discussion, one of the few on Mefi.
posted by pjgulliver at 7:41 AM on July 9, 2003


Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) is the law which all members of the military live under, even when off duty. UCMJ is an extension of federal law. So since SCOTUS has ruled that there is a zone of privacy (sexual privacy?) that protects sodomy and sex in general, the anti-sodomy section of UCMJ should be deemed stuck down as well.

Maybe not. First, Congressional regulation of the military is very different than the body of general law enacted by the Congress. The governance of the military is a specifically enumerated power given to the Congress by Art. 1 Sec. 8 of the Constitution. As such, the Supreme Court has given an enormous amount of deference to Congress in that area as a matter of separation of powers. Remember, for example, it took Truman's order as commander-in-chief to desegregate the military; the Supreme Court refused to do so. That may be the same here, although I ferevently hope not.

Second, Lawrence v. Texas is explicitly a case about the scope of rights protected by the Fourteenth Amendment, which only governs state, and not federal, action. Although the Court has been willing to find that the Fifth Amendment Due Process clause protects some of the same rights as the Fourteenth Amendment, such as the rights recognized by Brown v. Board, there is no guarantee that the Court will make the same decision regarding Lawrence.

Then again, the Court has already leapt this far into the breach, there's no telling where they might come down on this issue.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 8:22 AM on July 9, 2003


Quick note--I met my wife in the military, when we were in the same unit. We didn't make our relationship public for months, as it might have looked unprofessional. (Anyone who has dated a co-worker can understand.) When we were married, my CO attended. Compare that with what would have might have occured 40 years ago.
posted by mcchesnj at 8:24 AM on July 9, 2003


I get your point, but I'm pretty sure Jehovah's Witnesses don't condone military service.

Yeah, I withdraw the analogy. But fill in whatever. There are any number of personality types and/or zealots that would make me uncomfortable. Then again, so would being in the military.
posted by soyjoy at 8:28 AM on July 9, 2003


I don't wish Mark McGrath to get AIDS, but I wouldn't weep if he got hit by a bus. That then stopped and backed over him. Again and again.

Now, what were we discussing?

Go Steve Loomis. That's all I'm sayin'.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:45 AM on July 9, 2003


It amazes me to see the contrast of treatment of homosexuals in American society and military versus that of, for example, Israel. The Israeli military has long admitted and functioned with "out" servicemembers and according to at least this one study by the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military at UCSB (yeah, I was kind of surprised by their existence too) there has been no impact on the functionality of the Israeli Military due to the presence of out homosexuals. From the conclusion:
IDF officials have declared that the inclusion of homosexuals has not harmed its operations, and RAND and GAO reports in 1993 concluded that Israel's policies had had no negative effect. Further, the scholars, former and present military personnel, and representatives of gay and lesbian organizations interviewed for this report indicated that they had not heard any intimations that IDF performance had been compromised by the inclusion of openly gay and lesbian soldiers. In this security-conscious country, where the military is considered to be essential to the continued existence of the nation, there has been no public debate or expressions of concern about possible harm to IDF rates of success by sexual minorities.
I heard a piece on NPR recently that interviewed out gay Israeli military personnel and they all testified that they had received no discrimination or harassment from either their fellow troops or their superiors.
posted by Ufez Jones at 10:01 AM on July 9, 2003


Nice post. Interesting case. I'll keep my eye on it.

Given the lack of a reply, I just figured that I had asked a boneheaded question.
posted by tyro urge at 11:29 AM on July 9, 2003


Brilliant examples of ignorance.

Hmm. I guess you're not being specific enough for me to respond to you. What's ignorant about them?
posted by Hildago at 1:42 PM on July 9, 2003


Yeah, Steve, pleasantly surprised at the evenhanded tone of your FPP.

Man that's some kind of backhanded compliment where you've got one of thos sap-gloves with the powdered lead in them on.

Anyways. I'm gonna go ahead and be cynical and say that Loomis won't win, just because it's the military. Also I'm taking bets on the motivation of the arson, $10 says it was because of his proclivity for having the gay sex.
posted by kavasa at 3:24 PM on July 9, 2003


kavasa:
The fire was set by an Army private, Michael A. Burdette, who had met Loomis the year before and had posed for nude photos in Loomis's house. Desperate to retrieve the photos but unable to find them after breaking into Loomis's house, Burdette started the fire in hopes of destroying the pictures, according to Army records. Burdette was discharged from the Army in January after pleading guilty in state court to arson. The fire marshal who came across the incriminating videotape in a camera on the scene has testified that he seized it thinking it might show the arsonist igniting the house. But Burdette does not appear in the tape. Loomis and his supporters argued use of the tape as evidence was improper, but Army officials at every stage of appeal affirmed its inclusion. -- 1997 WaPo article
posted by dhartung at 11:53 PM on July 9, 2003


Thanks dhartung, I was wondering what the back story on the fire was.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 12:05 PM on July 10, 2003


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