A federal judge blocked the Navy Monday from discharging a senior chief petty officer for homosexuality, castigating military officials for “launching a search and destroy” mission against the sailor, Timothy R. McVeigh, based on evidence obtained from an online computer service.
In a blistering attack on the Navy’s handling of the case, U.S. District Judge Stanley Sporkin said the service had violated not only Pentagon guidelines for investigating suspected homosexuals but also federal statutes meant to protect the privacy of electronic Internet users.
Sporkin’s ruling granted McVeigh a temporary injunction that allows him to remain on active duty until the case can be heard fully in court. But the judge also made clear his view that the Navy has no chance of winning its argument based on the evidence so far. He included an impassioned plea for greater acceptance of gays in the ranks, urging the military to drop its traditional opposition and “move beyond this vestige of discrimination and misconception of gay men and women.”
Attorney Christopher Wolf, who argued for McVeigh in court, called Sporkin’s ruling “a milestone” for on-line privacy and for defining the Pentagon’s policy on homosexuals. The Navy issued a terse statement, saying McVeigh would remain in his current assignment, a desk job with Submarine Squadron 3 in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. “It would be inappropriate to comment further since this case is in the process of litigation,” the statement said.
Several legal challenges to the Pentagon’s four-year-old “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on homosexuality are currently working their way through the federal court system. Under the policy, which was painstakingly negotiated with military leaders and Congress during President Clinton’s first months in office, the military agreed to stop searching out gays, provided they keep their sexual orientation private.
The Navy maintains that McVeigh, a 17-year veteran who was the top enlisted sailor on the nuclear submarine USS Chicago, openly stated his homosexuality on a “profile page” posted by America Online Inc. The page, which included McVeigh’s first name and residence in Honolulu, listed “gay” next to marital status and contained references indicating a sexual interest in young men.