The Trump administration has apparently begun sending discharge orders to multiple members of the United States Air Force just days before Christmas.
According to Lambda Legal, who has teamed with OutServe-SLDN and Winston & Strawn to file a lawsuit on the behalf of these individuals, the plaintiffs were found to be “unfit for continued military service,” for the mere fact that they had HIV.
“It’s disgusting that the Trump administration is sending some men and women in uniform home for the holidays without jobs simply because of their HIV status,” said Scott Schoettes, Counsel and HIV Project Director at Lambda Legal. “These decisions should be based on science, not stigma. Lambda Legal is suing to stop these separations and will not stop fighting until President Trump understands that there’s not a job in the world a person living with HIV cannot safely perform, including the job of soldier.”
The lawsuit, Roe and Voe v. Mattis, has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, anonymously in order to protect the plaintiffs’ identities.
According to Lambda Legal, the Trump administration is using a new policy they implemented in February called “Deploy or Get Out,” which separates those who have not deployed in over 12 months from their military service. When one combines this new policy with policies already in place which forbid service members living with HIV from deploying outside the United States without a waiver, you get the legal justification to fire HIV-positive service members.
“Anyone willing to put their life on the line to defend our country deserves respect, not discrimination,” said Peter Perkowski, Legal & Policy Director of OutServe-SLDN. “These Airmen are acknowledged leaders and good at their jobs. They have served honorably for many years. They have the support of their commanders and medical personnel, who state that having HIV will not affect their ability to do their jobs. There is simply no justification for this decision.”
HillReporter will continue to follow this case as it progresses through our court system. The US Department of Defense has been unavailable for comment thus far.