Sgt. Jene Newsome is a nine-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force. There, she worked as an aircraft armament system craftswoman. That is until police entered her home in Rapid City, S.D., to find her wife Cheryl Hutson, wanted on theft charges in Alaska. And when Newsome refused to cooperate with locating Hutson — by rushing home when the police reached her at the Air Force base — the police alerted her officers that they found an Iowa marriage license, issued in October, identifying the pair as wife and wife. Indeed, Newsome was honorably discharged under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Except, uh, she didn’t tell anyone.
Half of the entire premise of DADT is that gay soldiers not reveal their sexuality to the military. Newsome did not do this. The Rapid City Police Department, in its November investigation, did. And while the ACLU helps Newsome sort out whether the cops violated Newsome’s privacy rights by releasing her marital status to her employer, let’s recognize the situation for what it is: A disgusting example of how DADT doesn’t just discriminate, but actively harms the safety of America.
Newsome, as a private citizen, did not jump to help the police locate her girlfriend (who is now out on bail and faces felony theft charges). That’s a matter between she and the police, with the Air Force completely immaterial. But the cops insist they always notify the military when one of its personnel is involved in an investigation (which Newsome wasn’t). “It’s an emotional issue, and it’s unfortunate that Newsome lost her job, but I disagree with the notion that our department might be expected to ignore the license, or not document the license or withhold it from the Air Force once we did know about it,” says police chief Steve Allender, who’s held the post since 2007. “It was a part of the case, part of the report, and the Air Force was privileged to the information.”
Not according to Newsome, who maintains the police used the marriage license as leverage to try to force her to cooperate — or else.
If that’s true, it’s despicable. But more despicable is that a gay marriage license can even be used as leverage by police against a gay American who happens to honorably serve and protect this country. And more despicable than that? That the Air Force would agree, and let a third party out Newsome and then fire her under a discriminatory law. Newsome abides by the rules for nine years, and because she wasn’t terribly forthcoming in an investigation against her own wife, this nation has lost yet another trained service member.
The situation can only be rectified in this way: Allow Newsome to re-enlist with the Air Force and return to the same position, with the same salary and benefits; reprimand the police officers who used a person’s sexuality and celebration of her relationship as a means to extort information; and have the Rapid City Police publicly apologize to Newsome. Oh, and one other little matter: Repeal DADT so shit like this isn’t even possible.