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Equal pay won for discharged gay servicemembers in class action suit

Some servicemembers ousted under the now retired ban on gays in the military will receive their full separation pay, not the half-pay they received previously.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of New Mexico announced a settlement in the class action suit later on Jan. 7.

The “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy providing for the ouster of openly gay servicemembers was implemented in the early 1990s and fully repealed more than a year ago. But not repealed was a provision that that servicemembers honorably discharged for homosexuality would receive only half their separation pay.

“There was absolutely no need to subject these servicemembers to a double dose of discrimination by removing them from the Armed Forces in the first place, and then denying them this small benefit to ease the transition to civilian life,” said Laura Schauer Ives, managing attorney for the ACLU of New Mexico.

The ACLU filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of 181 honorably discharged veterans who had their separation pay cut in half because of DADT. The total amount of separation pay withheld from the veterans is about $2.4 million.

The lead plaintiff, Richard Collins, a former staff sergeant in the Air Force, served for nine years until he was discharged. He had been seen by a co-worker kissing his boyfriend in their case while stopped at an intersection off the base.

He said, in a news release from the ACLU, “This means so much to those of us who dedicated ourselves to the military, only to be forced out against our will for being who we are. We gave all we had to our country, and just wanted the same dignity and respect for our service as any other veterans.”

The settlement means servicemembers who joined the class action will receive notification from the government that they are eligible for 100 percent of their separation pay.

Eligibility was limited to servicemembers discharged on or after Nov. 10, 2004, due to the statute of limitations.

Joshua Block, staff attorney for the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Project, said, “The amount of the pay owed to these veterans is small by military standards, but is hugely significant in acknowledging their service to their country.”

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