Air Force officer fights ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ dismissal

Liz Goodwin

An Air Force officer who has flown almost 90 combat missions and is a year from retirement is fighting a discharge order under the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

Air Force Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, 40, is asking a U.S. District Court to stay the decision to discharge him, the Washington Post reports. He argues that the military needs to prove that his dismissal "advances an important government interest and that government's intrusion ... is justified by that interest." That higher bar for discharging a service member for being gay was set by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in 2008.

Bruce Rolfsen at the Air Force Times writes that the Air Force began investigating Fehrenbach in 2008, "after a man he met on the Internet spent an evening at his home and then accused him of rape." Fehrenbach was never charged, but police in Idaho informed his command that he is gay.

The officer will lose more than $40,000 a year in retirement pay if he is discharged before September 2011, when he will have served 20 years, the Air Force Times says.

The House has voted to repeal the military's ban on openly gay service, and the Senate may take up the issue after the August recess.

(Photo of Fehrenbach in 2000: Courtesy of Fehrenbach via AP)