Lesbians' 'dirty dancing' causes Army officer's pending dismissal

by Will Hall, |
LTC Christopher P. Downey is a decorated combat pilot with an exceptional record of service. | Thomas More Law Center

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (Christian Examiner) -- An Army colonel's attempt to restore good order and discipline in his unit -- by stopping the exploitative photographing and videotaping of two lesbian officers, and interrupting the pair's groping and deep kissing each other on the dance floor during a formal ball -- has been investigated for discrimination and is facing dismissal from the service.

The Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Mich., has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Lieutenant Colonel Christopher P. Downey, seeking his reinstatement to the service, correction of his official record, and restoration to selection lists for top assignments he was competing for before the incident.

According to the filing, there had been another incident before this date, involving inappropriate videotapes and photographs posted to the Internet that embarrassed other unit members and brought discredit to the outfit. In that context, one of Downey's senior non-commissioned officers alerted him to the embarrassing behavior of the lesbian officers -- defined as public display of affection in uniform, which is prohibited by military regulations -- and said others at the official function had cameras and smartphones pointed at the two.

Downey admits to stepping in to stop the filming and in the process of pushing a camera down, scraped the nose of the owner and knocked him off balance.

The issue became radioactive when one of the lesbian officers, in the process of separating from the Army, took to the Internet to allege the command master sergeant, junior to her but the senior enlisted person in the command, shoved her across the dance floor, "for being gay ... lovely end to my active duty career."

The blog entry became a hot item on the Huffington Post.

In all the imbroglio surrounding the incident, Downey's commanding officer took him to task for discrimination, alleging Downey did not treat others at the event the same way for the same conduct.

Ironically, although the investigator said Downey discriminated against the lesbian officers, he was charged with assault -- on the camera owner.

The decision likely reflects a military policy issued by the Undersecretary of Defense after the repeal of the previous "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy, which formerly let homosexuals serve as long as they did not talk about it. Now LGBT personnel can serve openly. That guiding memorandum which addressed the new freedom of sexual identity expression, instructed military commanders that all regulations pertaining to public displays of affection, dress and appearance and fraternization were to apply without regard to sexual orientation.

Downey insists his only intention was to stop an embarrassing situation from hurting the reputation of the command and that his actions were in accordance with Army regulations regarding good conduct and maintaining order and discipline of those under his command.

The specialist at the center of the alleged assault apparently stated he did not consider the scraped nose as anything other than an accident.

The Thomas More Law Center reports that a Show Cause Board, a military panel that determines a service member's career fate, voted unanimously to retain Downey. However, a Selective Early Retirement Board convened Nov. 12 to decide whether Downey will be forced to retire.