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ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE 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 orientation. 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 regarding homosexuality. 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 sexual orientation. "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. --30--


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