- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 19, 2016

An elderly Air Force veteran asked a federal judge on Friday to make the military reconsider the undesirable discharge status he was given nearly 70 years earlier for being gay.

Ed Spires, 91, sued the secretary of Air Force in federal court on Friday in hopes of having his 1948 discharge upgraded to “honorable.” The Norwalk, Conn. resident enlisted in the military in 1946 at the age of 20, and had obtained the rank of sergeant prior to being outted as gay two years later and sent home with a discharge that cited “homosexuality” as the reason for dismissal.

Multiple attempts to have that discharge upgraded following repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that banned gays from serving have so far ended unsuccessfully, thanks largely to a fire at a federal records facility in 1973 that resulted in the destruction of Mr. Spires’ military papers among millions of other documents.

Mr. Spires’ most recent appeal was still being considered by the Air Force Board for Correction of Military Records (AFBCMR) for a possible upgrade as recently as Nov. 15 according to court documents. Following a recent weeks-long hospitalization, however, attorneys acting on behalf of the Air Force veteran are fighting to grant Mr. Spires an honorable discharge so that he can be buried with military honors.

The 14-page complaint filed Friday in U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut calls on the court to have Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James reconsider Mr. Spire’s discharge status and authorize an upgrade as soon as possible “to reflect his faithful service to his country and his equality in the eyes of the country he served.”

“Despite the discrimination I faced, I left the military with an honorable discharge,” Mr. Spires husband and fellow military vet, David Rosenberg, told a local NBC affiliate. “It is an injustice that the military has treated Ed and me so differently, despite our equal honorable service.”

“By granting Mr. Spires justice, the Air Force will finally send the message to Mr. Spires and all veterans who received undesirable discharges for homosexuality, despite their faithful service to our country, that the honor of their service does not depend upon their sexual orientation,” said Erin Baldwin, an intern at the Yale Law School Veterans Legal Services Clinic who is representing Mr. Spires with a group of colleagues.

The Air Force declined to comment on Mr. Spires’ case when reached by the Washington Blade, and was referred to the Department of Justice for a similar rejection. Maj. Ben Sakrisson, a Pentagon spokesperson, told the NBC station that privacy laws prevented him from commenting on particular individual’s status.

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