A National Guard colonel who was dismissed after acknowledging she is a lesbian felt like "a general who's won a war" after a federal judge ordered her reinstated.
The Pentagon's ban on gays is based solely on "fear and dislike of homosexuals," U.S. District Judge Thomas Zilly said Wednesday in ruling that Col. Margarethe Cammermeyer's constitutional rights were violated when she was discharged by the Washington State National Guard.The ruling is not a direct rebuff of the current "don't ask, don't tell" policy, under which gays can serve if they keep their sexual orientation to themselves. Cammermeyer was forced out in 1992 under the outright ban that preceded the current policy.
But Cammermeyer's lawyers noted that Zilly had examined all the justifications used for adopting the new policy and rejected them. Among other things, he rejected the government's position "that homosexual `orientation' is equivalent to homosexual `conduct.' "
For that reason, the ruling could spell trouble for the Clinton administration, eager to avoid re-examination of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, a compromise worked out after months of grueling negotiations on Capitol Hill. The policy took effect March 1.
Zilly is not the first federal judge to make such a ruling, and both sides had indicated the case would probably go to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco whatever the judge decided.
Justice Department spokesman Joe Krovisky said from Washington, D.C., that agency attorneys had not read the ruling and that he had no comment. Lt. Col. Donna Hubbard, spokeswoman for the Washington State National Guard, also refused to comment.
"I feel a little bit like a general who's won a war," the 52-year-old Cammermeyer said. "It was the right decision and it is wonderful."
Cammermeyer was chief nurse for the Guard from 1986 until her discharge.