On Thursday, a panel at the Lemoore Naval Air Station decided to allow a Navy Petty Officer to remain in active duty despite being outed as a homosexual. Although pictures of the Petty Officer 2nd Class Derek Morado kissing another man had surfaced and spread on Myspace, the three-member panel in California voted unanimously to not discharge him, even though he is in direct violation of the still-active but soon to be repealed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) policy.
In December, President Obama officially signed a repeal of DADT, the contentious policy banning gay and lesbian citizens from serving in the military. Nonetheless, the repeal is not scheduled to be implemented until this summer, at the earliest, given the need to develop new training that can be applied to all branches of military service.
As a result of permitting Morado to remain in the service, the California panel is technically acting against the current DADT policy of the U.S. Department of Defense. As such, not all agree with the ruling in his favor, and Morado’s fight to serve the military openly gay isn’t over. His case will now be referred to Navy Personnel Command for further review.
Still, gay rights activists are claiming a victory at this landmark ruling.
Now that judicial bodies within the military have set a precedent, it’ll be interesting to see what follows. Military sources have repeatedly said that they wish not to rush anything, in order to be sure that the repeal is implemented properly and fully in all of the branches of the military. Meanwhile, prominent Republican lawmakers like Mike Huckabee and likely 2012 Presidential contender Tim Pawlenty are clamoring for the act’s reinstatement, with Pawlenty going so far as to say that defunding the repeal process in order to kill it would be “a reasonable step.” So even once the repeal goes into full effect, the issue could continue to be debated for some time, and could become a talking point in the 2012 race and beyond.