May 11, 2007
News: U.S. Navy Fires Openly Gay Sailor Recalled to Active Duty
(Washington, USA) - The United States Navy has informed Petty Officer Second Class Jason Knight that it intends to fire him under the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law just weeks prior to completing his one-year commitment. Knight, an openly gay sailor, was recalled to active duty in June 2006 and recently completed a tour of duty in Kuwait, where he was open about his sexual orientation with his command and fellow sailors. He told his story last weekend in the newspaper Stars & Stripes and he was notified yesterday that he will be receiving an honourable discharge from the Navy based, in part, on his recent media interviews.
Knight was scheduled to end his commitment on May 28, 2007, but will face early dismissal because he chose to go public about his experience.
“Jason Knight was an exemplary sailor who gladly returned to active duty when our country needed him,” said Sharra E. Greer, director of law and policy for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN).
“Now, despite his dedication and service, and the praise of those he served alongside, the Navy has decided to fire him because he dared to tell his story and put a public face to the courage of lesbian and gay service personnel.
“Our nation should be embarrassed that our armed forces are forced to respond to Knight’s selfless service with a government-sanctioned pink slip. ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ silences lesbians and gays and attempts to make them invisible.
“Because Knight refused invisibility, he will now be fired,” she said.
Knight, a trained Hebrew linguist, was re-called to active duty and served with Naval Customs Battalion Romeo in Kuwait.
He told Stars & Stripes that, having ‘come out’ to his command during his previous enlistment, he saw no reason to hide his sexual orientation.
Many of his colleagues spoke to the newspaper in support of him.
“The Navy tends to keep people who don’t want to be here, but Jason does,” Petty Officer 1st Class Tisha Hanson told the paper. “[I]t doesn’t bother me.”
And Bill Driver, the leading petty officer of Knight’s 15-person customs crew in Kuwait, told the newspaper: “He’s better than the average sailor at his job. It’s not at all a strange situation. As open as he is now, it was under wraps for quite a while. It wasn’t an issue at work.”
Speaking today, Petty Officer Knight said: “I have now spent five years in the Navy, and I have loved every minute of it.
“It is unfortunate that in our country, which prides itself on being a beacon of liberty to the world, discrimination is still alive and well, even in our own government. I am proud to be among the one million gay veterans who have answered the call to duty, and I look forward to working alongside them to topple this un-American and counter-productive law.”