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Novel Challenge to Military Discrimination
Brought by ACLU of Wisconsin
For IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 11, 1990
In a novel approach to fighting military discrimination against
gay men and lesbians, the American Civil Liberties Union of
Wisconsin Foundation has filed a state employment discrimination
complaint on behalf of a gay soldier who was denied employment by
the Wisconsin National Guard.
The soldier, Richard Aries of Madison, Wisconsin, was honorably
discharged by the United States Army at the end of his enlistment
after he was denied the option to re-enlist because of his sexual
Aries then decided to apply for a position with the Wisconsin
State National Guard and was told by telephone that there was a
slot open, that he would have the same rank as he had in the Army
and that he would be eligible for student loans.
When he later attempted to enlist in person, Aries was asked if
he was gay. When he told the recruiter that he was, Aries said he
was told that the state guard follows the federal regulations
Although federal regulations forbid the enlistment of lesbians
and gay men in national guard units, Wisconsin law specifically
prohibits the state's national guard from discriminating on the
basis of sexual orientation. Only Wisconsin and Massachusetts
have statewide laws forbidding discrimination on the basis of
"The people of the state of Wisconsin have condemned the
irrational, discriminatory and harmful exclusion of gay men and
lesbians from the national guard," said Eunice Edgar, executive
director of the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation. "The people of
Wisconsin have expressed their confidence that the state's
interests can be fully protected by employment policies that
require the inclusion of gay persons."
By fighting the military's discrimination on a state level, the
ACLU has opened a new avenue to legal and public challenge, said
William B. Rubenstein, the Director of the ACLU's national
Lesbian and Gay Rights Project.
"In addition to the colleges and universities which are ever
more loudly criticizing the military's discrimination,"
Rubenstein said, "now the military's policy will also be
scrutinized by a state human rights commission."
The case against the Wisconsin State Guard is being handled for
the ACLU by cooperating attorney Patrick Berrigan of the
Milwaukee firm of Angermeier & Rogers. Berrigan also represented
Miriam Ben-Shalom, a lesbian who was ousted from the U.S. Army
reserves because of her sexual orientation, in her decade-long
battle with the Army.
Ben-Shalom's case challenged the military's policy on
constitutional grounds in federal court; it ended this winter
when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review an adverse decision
of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago.
In contrast to Ben-Shalom's federal constitutional challenge to
the U.S. Army policy, the Aries case will challenge the state
guard's discrimination before the Wisconsin State Personnel
Commission on the ground that it violates Wisconsin's statewide
gay rights law.
If unsuccessful before that panel, court action is likely.