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Air Force, in reversal, will discharge lesbian officer

April 20, 2010|By Julian E. Barnes

Reporting from Washington — Reversing an earlier decision, the Air Force said Monday that it intends to discharge a lesbian Air Force officer who had remained in the military despite openly declaring her homosexuality.

An Air Force general this year concluded that Lt. Robin R. Chaurasiya should not be discharged, saying she had declared her sexual orientation for the purpose of avoiding military service.

But after Chaurasiya spoke publicly about that decision, the Air Force announced a further review. On Monday, Air Force officials told Chaurasiya that a more senior officer, Gen. Raymond E. Johns Jr., reversed the earlier decision and recommended she be honorably discharged.

Chaurasiya had denied she was trying to leave the Air Force, and instead was trying to confront what she believed was the injustice of the military policy.

"I am kind of heartbroken," said Chaurasiya, who is stationed at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois. "I felt my situation was hinting at changes. I really thought I would be able to lead the way for a more equal military."

In a statement, the Air Force said that its Air Mobility Command recommended Chaurasiya be discharged. A final decision will be made by Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley.

The reversal came as the military adapts to new guidelines on the removal of gay service members. About 13,000 have been discharged since a 1993 law imposed a ban on gays serving openly in the military.

However, President Obama has called for an end to the ban on gays. Defense officials are studying ways to end the ban. In the interim, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said last month that a new set of guidelines would be used to make enforcement of the "don't ask, don't tell" law more humane.

Chaurasiya's said her case began in July after a male former officer she once dated had provided her commanding officer with evidence that she was a lesbian. The Air Force dismissed that complaint. But afterward, Chaurasiya, feeling slighted, decided to declare that she was a lesbian. In December, she and her partner were joined in a civil union in New Hampshire.

A subsequent Air Force investigation found credible evidence she was a lesbian, but determined she had declared her sexual orientation in an attempt to get out of military service. The general in charge refused to remove her.

The Air Force on Monday suggested the decision to discharge her resulted from new evidence. Chaurasiya said her partner was interviewed to determine if their civil union was real.

Chaurasiya said she does not regret publicizing her situation. "Part of repealing the policy is demonstrating how arbitrarily it is implemented," she said. "As long as we are raising awareness about problems in the policy, it was worth it."

julian.barnes@latimes.com

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