A case that has taken on an appearance of an attempt by Navy officials to discharge a service member for “implied” homosexuality has LGBTQ activists angry and the U.S. Navy scrambling to defend its position.
According to Petty Officer Stephen C. Jones, his roommate returned from a trip last month to find Jones asleep in his bed with another male sailor in their Navy barracks at the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command, on the sprawling Naval Weapons Station located near Charleston, S.C.
Jones maintains that his friend had stopped by to watch “The Vampire Diaries” and that they had fallen asleep on the same bed.
But after an investigation, the Navy charged the 21-year-old petty officer with “Dereliction Of Duty” and instituted discharge proceedings against him, which Jones is fighting.
“The subterfuge is, they believe this kid is a homosexual, but they have no proof of it,” said Gary Myers, Jones’s civilian attorney. “So what they’ve done here is to trump this thing up as a crime. This is not a crime.”
Jones has been charged with a catch all vague transgression of the Uniform Code of Military Justice to wit: “willful failure to exhibit professional conduct” in his bachelor enlisted quarters, reports the Washington Post:
According to the Navy’s investigative summary of the episode, the trouble started shortly after midnight Feb. 6, when Jones’s roommate, Tyler Berube, returned from an out-of-town trip.
As he opened the door, Berube saw Jones “asleep in bed with another male sailor,” according to a statement that Berube gave to investigators. Berube stated that both were wearing only boxer shorts but got dressed and left after he woke them up.
Jones said in his account to investigators that he was wearing pajamas but that neither he nor his friend, Brian McGee, had intended to fall asleep or spend the night together. He said the encounter was platonic.
The investigative summary and charging documents do not specify how Jones’s actions constituted unprofessional conduct. Jones said his friend often stopped by his room to watch videos, and he noted that visiting hours lasted until 2 a.m. that Saturday night. He and his attorney said they have repeatedly asked the Navy for clarification.
Jones’ friend, Brian McGee, was also charged with the same violation. Neither man was accused with a violation of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” statue, which is still in effect.
“It’s been the case for years that commanders had at their disposal the means to chapter someone out of the military for something other than homosexual conduct,” said Alexander Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United, whose organization led efforts to successfully repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
“If you want to get rid of somebody, you can always find something to punish them for,” Nicholson said.
Lieutenant Commander Thomas Dougan, spokesman for the NNPT Command, citing privacy rules, refused comment, but in an e-mail response to the Post denied that the Command was discharging Jones or McGee based on sexual orientation.
Dougan acknowledged that while no regulation specifically prohibits sailors from falling asleep in the same bed, he said rules do require them to “behave professionally in the barracks” and that Capt. Thomas W. Bailey, the commanding officer, concluded that Jones and McGee had not done so.
“The determination was that two sailors sharing the same rack was unprofessional.”
Dougan also noted that it is the Defense Department‘s policy “not to ask service members or applicants about their sexual orientation, to treat all members with dignity and respect, and to ensure maintenance of good order and discipline.”
When a reporter asked Jones about his sexuality, he replied, “Under the circumstances, that is my business and my business alone.”