Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 14, 2010

MEET JENE NEWSOME.... The repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," pending in Congress, can't come quickly enough. But in the interim, there are steps policymakers can take to at least make the existing system -- which is already inherently unfair and discriminatory -- function in a slightly less ridiculous way.

About a month ago, when Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen told the Senate Armed Services Committee that it's time for DADT to go, Gates hinted an interim step, preceding a full repeal. Gates told senators that the Pentagon can enforce the status quo "in a fairer manner" until the repeal is complete, suggesting that the Pentagon will likely be disinclined to discharge servicemen and women who are "outed" by third parties or jilted partners.

In other words, if a serviceman or woman really doesn't "tell," then there's no reason for him or her to be stripped of their uniform.

Jene Newsome, for example, knew the rules. A lesbian and a sargeant in the Air Force, she assumed that if she kept her sexual orientation to herself, she could continue to serve. And yet, while the military didn't ask, and she didn't tell, Newsome has nevertheless been kicked out.

...Newsome was discharged earlier this year under the military's "don't ask, don't tell" law after Rapid City, S.D., police officers saw an Iowa marriage license in her home and told the Ellsworth Air Force Base.

The police were at Newsome's home in November with an arrest warrant for her partner, who was wanted on theft charges in Alaska.

According to the AP piece, police officers looking for Newsome's wife "spotted the marriage license on the kitchen table through a window" and "alerted the base."

Newsome and the American Civil Liberties Union have filed a complaint against the police department.

In the meantime, Congress, please do what President Obama, Gates, Mullen, Colin Powell, and 75% of the American people want you to do: end the DADT nonsense once and for all.

Steve Benen 11:20 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (27)

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Comments

Did "said officer" announce himself prior to peeking in the window? If not, then it sounds like a cause of illegal entry to me. The ACLU should also look into South Dakota's voyeurism laws, because a badge is not license to commit criminal acts....

Posted by: S. Waybright on March 14, 2010 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

WHY aren't the police "peeking through the windows" of congresspersons? And the clergy?

Concerned citizens want to know. . .

Posted by: DAY on March 14, 2010 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

WHY aren't the police "peeking through the windows" of congresspersons? And the clergy?

Presumably because most of them aren't married to people who are subject to an arrest warrant for theft?

Posted by: Just Dropping By on March 14, 2010 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

Did "said officer" announce himself prior to peeking in the window? If not, then it sounds like a cause of illegal entry to me.

There's no "knock and announce" requirement to look through a window. If the officers had a proper warrant (which the story suggests they did), they can come on to the property and look around the outside and peek through all the windows they want. "Knock and announce" applies only to entering the house itself in every jurisdiction that I'm aware.

Posted by: Just Dropping By on March 14, 2010 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

I can't tell you how many times a day I discover I've left my marriage license lying out on the table in the kitchen.

Posted by: dweb on March 14, 2010 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

Presumably because most of them aren't married to people who are subject to an arrest warrant for theft?

I guess we really have become a police state when a person can be fired from her job for being married to someone who's been accused of a crime.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on March 14, 2010 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

Just Dropping By: Can you at least acknowledge that the cops were assholes for reporting her to the AF?

Posted by: bikelib on March 14, 2010 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

Inasmuch as SD (I'm guessing) doesn't recognize the marriage license, this can be one hell of a fun case. And I hope she and the ACLU kick the ass of the cops and the Air Force just for being assholes.

Posted by: martin on March 14, 2010 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

"Spotted" as in used a spotting scope? As dweb noted, this fails the smell test. It seems unlikely that the marriage license would be in plain sight on a table, and even if was, is it going to be readable from outside the house?

Posted by: N.Wells on March 14, 2010 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

And, the same time we get rid of DADT, get rid of a festering hole of military obsolescence and right-wing Christian nuttery, the United States Air Force.

Posted by: Jon Gallagher on March 14, 2010 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

It is true that officers do not need to announce themselves before peeking through a window if they have a search warrant for the house or there were some sort of exigency. Of course, it is also true that if no one was home, they could enter the house anyway (again, if the officers have a warrant) and observe anything in plain sight.

However, a person does not have an obligation to leave work immediately to assist police in finding the person's spouse, or even an obligation to help the officers over the phone. And police who retaliate against someone in this situation by filing a report with the person's employer could and should be subject to discipline under department rules, though evidently not in Rapid City, South Dakota. The officer could also expose their department to liability. This is particularly true when the report is so clearly designed to cost the person their job.

If the article is accurate, there appears to be no reason for the department's actions other than to harm someone at whom an officer is ticked off. All the good police officers across the country are tainted by a ham-handed officer who put his or her personal agenda ahead of good law enforcement.

Posted by: TFisher on March 14, 2010 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

"In other words, if a serviceman or woman really doesn't "tell," then there's no reason for him or her to be stripped of their uniform."

On the one hand I agree, but on the other this is an admission by one of the highest ranking memebers of the military that it has cheated its own regs, by asking, listening to third parties and by actively snooping. And has allowed those who break those regs. to go unpunished.

Posted by: Marnie on March 14, 2010 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

dweb and N. Wells are correct. And I'd like to add to that the fact that, according to the AP article, the police are claiming that the AF were "privileged" to the information. And why, exactly, were they privileged to the information? Well, the article doesn't quote the police's answer to that.

But the article *does* quote Newsome's claim that the police contacted her and asked for her help in apprehending her partner, and she refused. I'm probably biased, but I would lay good odds that this was retaliation by the police.

Posted by: Shade Tail on March 14, 2010 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

Even Fox News treats its lesbians better...

... there are steps policymakers can take to at least make the existing system -- which is already inherently unfair and discriminatory -- function in a slightly ridiculous way.

Imagine the outrage if a jilted lover outed Mary Cheney and Fox News fired her. Is it too much to ask that our military functions with at least as much as social justice as our radical right-wing terrorist news network? I think not. Our Armed Forces are the best in the world, but they are lagging horribly and shamefully behind here...

It is way past prime time to get this done Mr. President.

Posted by: koreyel on March 14, 2010 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

Assumng the cops had a warrant and were in hot pursuit or what ever they needed to enter without permission and search (do we really believe the liscense was lying on the kitchen table) they have only the right to do what the warrent permits, and or to search from evidence of a crime.

A legal marriage liscens is not a crime. Roommates of the same gender is not a crime, so what crime were they investigating by passing private information around?

Posted by: Marnie on March 14, 2010 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

In my humble opinion, commenters debating the legalities of this are missing the important point: The AF dismissing her based on 2nd hand info is what's really fucked up. Isn't DADT supposed to be based on the servicemember in question being the one who "tells"?

Posted by: bikelib on March 14, 2010 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

bikelib: No, we are not missing that point. But that is not the only point here, and I think you do this a major injustice by claiming that the rest isn't as important. Are queer Americans supposed to be happy merely by getting fair treatment from the military?

The police in this case snooped into Newsome's personal life and quite blatantly ratted her out to the AF. This is not only completely improper, it is also precisely the kind of petty homophobic bullshit the LGBT community has been putting up with for a very long time.

Posted by: Shade Tail on March 14, 2010 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

The AF dismissing her based on 2nd hand info is what's really fucked up. Isn't DADT supposed to be based on the servicemember in question being the one who "tells"?

But people have been kicked out since the institution of DADT merely for other people ratting them out. The military apparently views DADT as "Don't ever kiss someone of the same sex anywhere in the world or you're 'telling,'" "Don't possess a non-invisible marriage license or you're 'telling,'" etc. It's totally screwed up.

And I'd be very interested in the precise timing of this, given that the Obama administration supposedly is declining to enforce third-party reports as grounds for dismissal.

Posted by: shortstop on March 14, 2010 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

I don't disagree with you at all, Shade Tail. Sorry if I didn't articulate my point well enough.

Posted by: bikelib on March 14, 2010 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

As a vet who was discharged in 07 for coming out as trans, just let me add that the service member in question was married. Same sex marriage is illegal for any servicemember, and is itself grounds for dismissal (the famous "statements, acts and marriage" formula for discharging people under DADT).

Obviously SD is showing its true colors as a bumfuck state, but it doesn't matter how much in the closet you are or if you don't tell the military jack-same sex marriage is, in and of itself (correct me if I'm wrong) a no no for servicemembers.

Besides, its a risky endeavour if you have to undergo a background check for a security clearance, etc.

Posted by: Amanda in the South Bay on March 14, 2010 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

Does anyone else have even the slightest hint of suspicion that the police might also have had a motive to create a smokescreen that might obscure an unlawful entry and search? An arrest warrant is not a search warrant.

Posted by: paul on March 14, 2010 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder if Obama is afraid to lose his temper? Perhaps he doesn't have one. But if he does, now would be a good time to give it rein.

Reinstate the officer, and abolish the idiotic DODT policy.

Posted by: JW on March 14, 2010 at 6:12 PM | PERMALINK

(cont'd) Reinstate the officer, and abolish the idiotic DODT policy AND fuck those redneck/pissant/ peckerwood cops.

Posted by: JW on March 14, 2010 at 6:16 PM | PERMALINK

An officer in possession of an arrest warrant does have the right to enter the home of the accused in order to effect the arrest. Here,it is unlikely that police in South Dakota were in possession of an Alaska arrest warrant.

The Fourth Amendment does require exigent circumstances for police, who are without a warrant, to venture beyond the portion of a house that is visible from the street. If the marriage license was in the kitchen, and if the kitchen window was not in the front of the house, what was the cop doing peering in that window?

This smells fishy. (No anatomical reference intended)

Posted by: John in Nashville on March 14, 2010 at 6:51 PM | PERMALINK

"Reinstate the officer, and abolish the idiotic DODT policy AND fuck those redneck/pissant/ peckerwood cops."

I suspect that women who fuck cops are less likely to get arrested. I don't know what Rapid City, South Dakota pays its police officers, but a lot of cops hire on for access to free poon as much as for the salary.

Posted by: John in Nashville on March 14, 2010 at 6:54 PM | PERMALINK

How about SD cops coming to arrest a woman accused of stealing something in AK? Unless this woman is accused of stealing an entire Brinks truck or the state seal, why are SD cops interested in pursuing her at all?

Could this all have started with homophobia and progressed from there?

Posted by: fess on March 14, 2010 at 8:16 PM | PERMALINK

Having same-sex, military couples living in my apartment building would be as stressful as hiding Anne Frank and her Jewish family in my attic. If somebody tattles something very bad happens to good people. The ACLU in South Dakota is asking people to send mail to the Rapid City council members. There is a "Justice for Jene" ACLU page on Facebook. All of the council members have email addresses posted on the Rapid City government web site.

Posted by: DJ on March 17, 2010 at 5:34 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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