Gay Officer in Limbo after Discharge from Air Force

 Gay Officer in Limbo after Discharge from Air Force

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Lt. Robin Chaurasiya, an openly gay communications officer serving in the U.S. Air Force, is in limbo after receiving discharge papers from the military.

Chaurasiya, who has served in the Air Force since 2006, received her discharge papers Apr. 28 after revealing her sexuality to her commanding officer at Scotts Air Force Base in Illinois. However, she has not been given an official “date of separation” and thus must continue to serve, in violation of the country’s laws which ban openly-gay people from serving in the armed forces.

“I don’t get it,” Chaurasiya told India-West, from the off-base home she shares with her wife in St. Louis, Ill. “If I’m ruining the morale of others on this base, then why am I still here?” she queried.

Chaurasiya’s discharge papers must be signed off by Air Force Secretary Michael Donley. Andre Kok, a spokesman for the Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs office, told India-West in an e-mail: “This case is with the Secretary of the Air Force for final review and determination. The Secretary of the Air Force reviews each case carefully and is not limited in the amount of time that can be taken to review the case.”

“In other words, there is no set time in which this action must be completed,” said Kok.

After her wedding last year in New Hampshire, where same-sex marriage is legal, Chaurasiya sent out an e-mail to about 100 friends, letting them know about her marriage. She sent the e-mail to a man she had once dated, who then forwarded it on to her commanding officer.

But Chaurasiya did not immediately receive her discharge papers. Lt. Gen. Robert Allardice, commander of the 18th Air Force at Scotts Air Force Base, wrote in a February memo that the 25-year-old Los Angeles native was simply disclosing her sexuality as a way of “avoiding and terminating
military service.” Allardice said Chaurasiya had to continue serving.

But last month, after the case received a spate of publicity in the national media, the Air Force reversed itself and gave Chaurasiya discharge papers, but without a date when she could leave military service.

Chaurasiya vehemently denies that she is trying to get out of serving in the armed forces. “I would be thrilled to serve in the Air Force if it were equal to everyone. But I can’t continue to serve and not be open about who I am,” she told India-West.

“If I’m serving, recognize who I am. I was born Indian, I was born a lesbian,” said Chaurasiya, adding that she could change neither of those facts.

Chaurasiya, whose parents hail from Indore, grew up in Seattle and Chicago, and became aware of her sexuality early in her life.

“Even as a 13-year-old, I knew,” she said, adding that she had a girlfriend then. “I told my sister, but we both knew we had to hide it from our parents.”

Her father died last year. Her mother, who has since moved to Jabalpur, is still not aware of the controversy surrounding her daughter.

In 1993, former President Bill Clinton issued a policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which allows gays to serve in the military as long as they do not disclose their sexuality. The measure modified an existing ban which bars gays, lesbians and bisexuals from serving in all branches of the military.

But activists say the policy essentially forces gay people to lie in order to serve in the military.

In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee this February, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called for a repeal of DADT, as the Clinton policy is known.

“It is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do,” said Mullen. “I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow
citizens,” he said.

Mullen said he had served with gays during his long tenure in the military and added, “I also believe that the great young men and women of ourmilitary can and would accommodate such a change.”

President Barack Obama has called for a repeal of DADT by the end of the year, but has been stymied by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who contends that the Department of Defense must first review and formulate a policy.