August 12, 1996 in Nation/World

Major Faces Trial On Charges Of Lesbian Acts Defense Says Air Force Violating Own ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Policy

Associated Press
 

Air Force Maj. Debra Meeks should be getting ready to collect her $1,800-a-month pension after spending nearly 19 years on active duty.

Instead she is facing discharge, loss of her retirement and jail on charges she was romantically involved with another woman. Her court martial is scheduled to begin Monday at Lackland Air Force Base.

The case centers on the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which allows homosexuals to serve provided they do not have sex with service members and keep their sexual preference and conduct private.

Because Meeks, 41, denies having the affair, her lawyers argue that prosecuting her would result in the Air Force violating its 1993 policy.

The woman making the allegation against Meeks is not in the Air Force and Meeks never revealed her sexual orientation to the military. She refused to say if she is a lesbian.

“I think at this point it’s fair to say that sexual orientation plays no part in this case,” Meeks’ lawyer Peter Held said.

The Air Force claims Meeks violated Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Conduct, which states that anyone who has “unnatural carnal copulation with another person of the same or opposite sex,” is guilty of sodomy.

If that is a court martial offense, there should be a lot more Article 125 trials, the defense charges. Even among married men and women.

“Part of the defense position in the case is that while husbands and wives could be charged under Article 125 for participating in oral sex, we are not aware of any husband and wife being prosecuted for what they do in the privacy of the bedroom,” Held said.

Held asserted that the prosecution stemmed from “homophobia.”

The charge surfaced in 1994 when Meeks was accused by a woman of threatening her with a weapon. The military investigated and offered Meeks nonjudicial punishment on the charge of conduct unbecoming an officer with regard to the threat. She refused, which is when the woman charged she was also Meeks’ lover.

Since then, Meeks’ planned retirement date of Feb. 28 has passed by. She remains on active duty, awaiting her fate at court martial.

© Copyright 1996 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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