Decorated Air Force officer sues to block homophobic discharge

In early 2008, just eight days before he was to deploy in support of the war in Afghanistan, Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, a decorated Air Force flight officer, was told he was under investigation on charges of sexually assaulting a civilian and of violating the military’s ban on homosexuality.

He was placed on desk duty at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho. Within three weeks, the sexual assault allegation was dismissed for lack of evidence. But the Air Force investigation into his sexuality continued. Now, just a year from completing his 20th year in the military, Colonel Fehrenbach, 40, believes he is about to be discharged under the policy known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.” He would be among the highest-ranking service members discharged under the policy.

On Wednesday, Colonel Fehrenbach’s lawyers filed papers in Idaho federal court requesting a temporary order blocking his discharge. The petition contends that a discharge would violate Colonel Fehrenbach’s rights, cause him irreparable harm and fail to meet standards established in a 2008 federal court ruling on don’t ask, don’t tell.

For advocates of abolishing the ban against gay men, lesbians and bisexuals serving openly, Colonel Fehrenbach’s case has become something of a line in the sand. Though President Obama has called for ending the ban and Congress has begun moving in that direction, gay service members continue to face investigations and discharge, albeit at a lower rate than in past years.

Lawyers for Colonel Fehrenbach assert that his case is among the most egregious applications of the policy in their experience. The Air Force investigation into his sexuality began with a complaint from a civilian that was eventually dismissed by the Idaho police and the local prosecutor as unfounded, according to court papers. Colonel Fehrenbach has never publicly said that he is gay.

However, during an interview with an Idaho law enforcement official, he acknowledged having consensual sex with his accuser. Colonel Fehrenbach’s lawyers say he did not realize Air Force investigators were observing that interview; his admission led the Air Force to open its “don’t ask” investigation.

RTFA. Lots of backwards bureaucratic behavior by the Air Force.

Compound that with Obama’s reluctance to live up to his expedient campaign promises and Congress’ predictable mix of cowardice and homophobia. I sit here blogging about the progress made in equal rights around the world – while my homeland turns it’s collective back on our history of leadership in liberty and education.

I have a strong affinity for my friends in the American military and I haven’t yet heard one of them say that being gay made someone a lousy pilot.

One thought on “Decorated Air Force officer sues to block homophobic discharge

  1. Mr. Fusion says:

    The distance we have come in civil liberties is but mere baby steps in how far we have to go.

    I wish the good Colonel all the best and a quick resolution.

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