Newsome, who was discharged in January, said she didn’t know where the marriage license was in her home when police came to her house on Nov. 20 and claims the officers were retaliating because she wouldn’t help with her partner’s arrest.
“This information was intentionally turned over because of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ and to out Jene so that she would lose her military status,” said Robert Doody, executive director of ACLU South Dakota. The ACLU is focusing its complaint on the police department, not the military, and Newsome said she and her attorney have not yet decided on whether to file a lawsuit.
“The ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ piece is important and critical to this, but also it’s a police misconduct case,” Doody said.
More than 13,500 service members have been discharged under the law since 1994, according to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which is lobbying for its repeal. Kevin Nix, communications director of the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, couldn’t speak about Newsome’s case, but said when “someone is outed by a third party, which it sounds like this was, or by a police officer, then, yeah … I’m not surprised the person was discharged.”
Though rare, third-party outing can be especially damaging to service members who wanted to keep their sexual orientation hidden, experts say.
Even though 80 percent of “don’t ask, don’t tell” discharges come from gay and lesbian service members who out themselves, third-party outings are “some of the most heinous instances of ‘don’t, ask, don’t tell,’” said Nathaniel Frank, a research fellow with the Palm Center think tank at the University of California, Santa Barbara and a New York University professor.
Newsome, who is originally from Harrisburg, Pa., is currently on the road, driving to Alaska. She said she’d been looking forward to the time when the military would alter its policies regarding gays and lesbians. But that change didn’t come in time to save her career.
“I felt like it was getting close,” she said. “I was really hopeful.”