U.S. Army fires Arabic linguist for being gay
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Sat May 9 13:59:09 UTC 2009
U.S. Army fires Arabic linguist for being gay
By The Associated Press
Tags: Israel News, Arabic, gays
A decorated sergeant and Arabic language specialist was dismissed from
the U.S. Army under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, though he says
he never admitted being gay and his accuser was never identified. Bleu
Copas, 30, told The Associated Press he is gay, but said he was
"outed" by a stream of anonymous e-mails to his superiors in the 82nd
Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C.
"I knew the policy going in," Copas said in an interview on the campus
of East Tennessee State University, where he is pursuing a master's
degree in counseling and working as a student adviser. "I knew it was
going to be difficult."
An eight-month Army investigation culminated in Copas' honorable
discharge on Jan. 30 - less than four years after he enlisted, he
said, out of a post-Sept. 11 sense of duty to his country. He plans
to appeal to the Army Board for Correction of Military Records.
The "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, established in 1993, prohibits the
military from inquiring about the sex lives of service members, but
requires discharges of those who openly acknowledge being gay.
'Weapon of vengeance'
The policy is becoming "a very effective weapon of vengeance in the
armed forces" said Steve Ralls, a spokesman for the Servicemembers
Legal Defense Network, a Washington-based watchdog organization that
counseled Copas and is working to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
Copas said he was never open about his sexuality in the military and
suspects his accuser was someone he mistakenly befriended and
More than 11,000 service members have been dismissed under the policy,
including 726 last year - an 11 percent jump from 2004 and the first
increase since 2001.
That's less than a half-percent of the more than 2 million soldiers,
sailors and Marines dismissed for all reasons since 1993, according to
the General Accountability Office.
But the GAO also noted that nearly 800 dismissed gay or lesbian
service members had critical abilities, including 300 with important
language skills. Fifty-five were proficient in Arabic, including
Copas, a graduate of the Defense Language Institute in California.
Discharging and replacing them has cost the Pentagon nearly $369
million, according to the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in
the Military at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
'At least two jealous lovers'
Lt. Col. James Zellmer, Copas' commanding officer in the 313th
military intelligence battalion, told the AP that "the evidence
clearly indicated that Sgt. Copas had engaged in homosexual acts."
While investigators were never able to determine who the accuser was,
"in the end, the nature and the volume of the evidence and Sgt.
Copas's own sworn statement led me to discharge him," Zellmer said.
Military investigators wrote that Copas "engaged in at least three
homosexual relationships, and is dealing with at least two jealous
lovers, either of whom could be the anonymous source providing this
Shortly after Copas was appointed to the 82nd Airborne's highly
visible All-American Chorus last May, the first e-mail came to the
"The director brought everyone into the hallway and told us about this
e-mail they had just received and blatantly asked, "Which one of you
are gay??" Copas said.
Copas later complained to the director and his platoon sergeant,
saying the questions violated "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
"They said they would watch it in the future," Copas said. "And they
said, even specifically then, 'Well, you are not gay are you?' And I
The accuser, who signed his e-mails "John Smith" or "ftbraggman,"
pressed Copas' superiors to take action against him or "I will inform
your entire battalion of the information that I gave you."
Copas: 'It is unjust'
On Dec. 2, investigators formally interviewed Copas and asked if he
understood the military's policy on homosexuals, if he had any close
acquaintances who were gay, and if he was involved in community
theater. He answered affirmatively.
But Copas declined to answer when they asked, "Have you ever engaged
in homosexual activity or conduct?" He refused to answer 19 of 47
questions before he asked for a lawyer and the interrogation stopped.
Copas said he accepted the honorable discharge to end the ordeal, to
avoid lying about his sexuality and risking a perjury charge, and to
keep friends from being targeted.
"It is unfair. It is unjust," he said. "Even with the policy we have,
it should never have happened.
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