Navy to reinstate gay sailor

Haya El Nasser;Jonathan T. Lovitt


USA Today


Page 01A

(Copyright 1992)


LOS ANGELES - The Navy Tuesday said it will comply with a federal judge's

order and reinstate gay sailor Keith Meinhold.


U.S. District Judge Terry Hatter Jr. gave the Navy until 8 a.m. PT Thursday to

restore Petty Officer Meinhold to his old job as a sonar crew instructor at Moffett

Naval Air Station, south of San Francisco.


``This is not a military dictatorship. It is not the former Soviet Socialist

Republic,'' Hatter said. ``Here, the rule of law applies to the military.''


The temporary order does not end the Pentagon's ban on homosexuals. The

government will ask Hatter to reconsider the injunction Monday.


But Hatter, for the first time addressing the merit of the suit, said Meinhold

likely could prove the ban unconstitutional.


In the meantime, ``The sailor is supposed to show up on Thursday, the oath of

office will be administered and he will be immediately reinstated,'' said Pentagon

spokesman Pete Williams.


``The real implication,'' said lawyer Christopher Ruddis, ``is Keith Meinhold will

be the first admitted homosexual in the armed forces.''


``Meinhold is elated,'' said John McGuire, another lawyer representing the

12-year Navy veteran, discharged in August after announcing on national TV

that he's gay. ``All he wanted is to be back in the Navy.''


Meinhold said, ``I certainly would not have thrown away a 12-year career unless

I thought I could make a difference for a lot of people.''


Tuesday's ruling is Hatter's second in five days. Meinhold, 30, tried to return to

work Monday but was turned away.


The government argued that Meinhold's return would disrupt the military and

``flies in the face of present military policies, rules and regulations.''


President-elect Clinton could end the legal battle if he keeps his promise to issue

an executive order allowing homosexuals in the military.


``The government has followed an outrageous policy for a long period of time,''

said Erwin Chemerinsky, constitutional law expert at the University of Southern

California. ``But that policy is likely to change.