Alex Blaze

"I played by 'don't ask, don't tell'": Police and privacy

Filed By Alex Blaze | March 15, 2010 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Don't Ask Don't Tell, Jene Newsome, military, police, privacy

A USAF sergeant lost her job when the police, investigating her partner, looked through the window of their house and saw their marriage license from Iowa. So, just for fun, they called up the Air Force and turned her in.

The jene_newsome.jpgRapid City Police Department says Newsome, an aircraft armament system craftsman who spent nine years in the Air Force, was not cooperative when they showed up at her home in November with an arrest warrant for her partner, who was wanted on theft charges in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Newsome was at work at the base at the time and refused to immediately come home and assist the officers in finding her partner, whom she married in Iowa - where gay marriage is legal - in October.

Police officers, who said they spotted the marriage license on the kitchen table through a window of Newsome's home, alerted the base, police Chief Steve Allender said.

Jene Newsome says she played by the rules, but apparently she didn't close her curtains and she should be prepared for the police to look in and blabber to her employer. Of course, if they did close the curtains, then they'd obviously have something to hide, so they should be investigated further. So really, if she hadn't married someone of the same-sex, then she wouldn't be in this situation.

What did she think, that she was living in a free society where she could separate her professional and personal life, exactly as she's asked to do by her government employer?

Newsome and the ACLU filed a complaint, and this ought to be independently investigated. Because when the police police themselves, here's what happens:

Allender said the department was finishing its internal investigation and has determined the officers acted appropriately.

Well, of course they found that they acted appropriately.

Sure, in this context, I'm certain that most people who are at all able to see that the police do wrong sometimes would find this to be over the line, even if they didn't violate any internal policies. The police shouldn't be able to just look into anyone's home and then tell whatever they find to people's employers.

This situation is a bit special, since the homophobia of the cops shines through their actions. But if they weren't motivated by homophobia, racism, sexism, etc? What if they just violated these people's privacy because, like many police officers, they just wanted to make their job as easy as possible and don't really have much respect for people's rights?

People should be fighting back against ever expanding police power, and I'm glad Newsome is fighting this with the ACLU. You give some people an inch of power, and they take a mile, which is why we have a system of laws and review and people who are given more power under the law are under more scrutiny than everyone else to use it correctly.

If police are left to their own devices, they are effectively put above the law. And when that happens, we're officially living in a police state, where they have the power to decide what the law means since they don't have to follow it themselves.


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Eric Payne | March 15, 2010 6:58 PM

Why is the military being allowed to completely ignore the third aspect of DADTDP?

For recruiters during the recruitment process, and officers and enlistees after a recruit has joined the services... you are expressly disallowed to ask a recruit/enlisted person about their sexual orientation.

Recruits are expressly disallowed to talk about, or reveal, their sexual orientation during the recruitment process or following enlistment.

The Armed Forces of the United States of America were, supposedly, expressly disallowed to pursue members of any branch of the service concerning their sexual orientation based on third-party accounts, unless those third party accounts also made accusations of other crimes against that service person - and those "other crimes" are limited in nature, as well, to gross felonies and capital crimes.

Somehow, seemingly, the "Don't Pursue" aspect of the policy has simply been forgotten by the Armed Forces.

The SF Chronicle article says:

Even though 80 percent of "don't ask, don't tell" discharges come from gay and lesbian service members who out themselves, third-party outings are "some of the most heinous instances of 'don't, ask, don't tell,' " said Nathaniel Frank, a research fellow with the Palm Center think tank at UC Santa Barbara and a New York University professor.

I don't really know how they're counting, as in what counts as someone outing him/herself versus being outed for another reason. On some level every outing is coproductive at the moment a person comes out to him/herself.

So I'd imagine a lot of those 80% would violate DP in some way. But this case technically wasn't someone being pursued by the military since it was the police who turned her in.

Eric Payne | March 15, 2010 9:37 PM
So I'd imagine a lot of those 80% would violate DP in some way. But this case technically wasn't someone being pursued by the military since it was the police who turned her in.

I might agree with you, Alex, if it were the serviceperson for whom the local police had an arrest warrant.

It wasn't. It was her spouse.

What the police in that jurisdiction did was tantamount to calling the employer of a live-in lover's employer (since the marriage is not recognized in the police force's jurisdiction) and implied that lover were being arrested/investigated for some crime, knowing that implication would, probably, result in that lover's termination by the employer.

If that scenario were to occur, do you think there's any "personal injury" attorney who couldn't get a jury to impose a hefty judgement against both the employer and the police force?

MediaMentions | March 15, 2010 7:04 PM

I personally find it ridiculous that the political/policial privacy meddle is still resulting in cases like the following: http://www.pressdisplay.com/pressdisplay/showlink.aspx?bookmarkid=JF7LXASN3T85&preview=article&linkid=6b60941c-a9d1-4df1-98e3-c13eeed0abf7&pdaffid=ZVFwBG5jk4Kvl9OaBJc5%2bg%3d%3d

Anyway, just something I picked up today.

This is appalling on so many levels. I can't help but think that her race and presumed economic status played some role in their invasion of privacy (poor/poorer people of colour have, apparently, no rights to privacy, and I think the cops work on the assumption that they wouldn't know their rights anyway).

But I also agree with you: "But if they weren't motivated by homophobia, racism, sexism, etc? What if they just violated these people's privacy because, like many police officers, they just wanted to make their job as easy as possible and don't really have much respect for people's rights?"

Yup. Sad but true.

Sadly....

Don't Ask, Don't Tell is a federal law. DADT bars same sex marriage and it is a well known law.

Local law enforcement of federal law is normal. There are far more local law enforcement officers than federal.

A local law enforcement officer looking for a fugitive may look thru a window. That is ok, if they can see anything they can use it.

DADT as a law is wrong, but this instance of enforcing it is valid. She is married to a same sex partner.

I won't be too suprised if the DoD starts asking to see same sex marriage licenses that have been issued and cross checking it against their personel rolls to find more same sex marriages in ranks.

They wonder why the word cop has such bad connotations in our culture. Cop a feel. Cop and attitude. Cop out.
Sickening.

Sorry, Eric, but, like many, you don't understand DADTDPDH. And, for those unfamiliar with me, the following is in no way a defense of it, only an explanation.

1. Third party outings of any kind were never banned. The "Don't Pursue" part means don't initiate an investigation of any servicemembers without "credible information" [that's the term the regulations use]. One they believe they have it they CAN THEN "ask," though one is under no legal responsibility to answer. However, even without your cooperation, if your commander is not one of those who choose to "look the other way" and there's enough "smoke" you will be fired.

Currently, that information can come from anywhere, and it is totally up to one's commander to determine if it's credible enough to begin an investigation, and we all know how dangerous "open to interpretation" laws can be. I say "currently" because there is some speculation that Gates will announce some type of higher standard.

2. Sgt. Newsome is, unfortunately, wrong. TWICE, in fact. She was NOT "playing by DADT rules."

2a. The regulation doesn't just forbid telling the military. It forbids telling ANYONE, ANYWHERE, ANYTIME. She "told" at least her now wife, and whatever others were involved in securing and using her Iowa marriage license. Just outing herself to her partner was enough to justify her discharge in the military's mind had they solely found out about that.

2b. While it seemed silly in 1993, and remains superfluous given that it requires a second party knowing you're gay, the Troglodytes knew that marriage equality was just a matter of time. So in procedural overkill they also made it a violation of DADT to marry or attempt to marry someone of the same gender.

Why Sgt. Newsome was unaware of this is hard to imagine. A part of every new recruits training includes an explanation of DADTDPDH. If she never got or forgot that training, one would think she would have asked for an explanation during her discharge proceedings rather than continuing to misrepesent the policy two months later.

Which brings me to a professional perpetual source of misinformation about DADT: the Associated Press, and this story, syndicated coast-to-coast by newspapers who should know better such as the NY Times and WAPO, is another indefensible example, declaring in the first line that Newsome,

"played by the rules as an Air Force sergeant: She never told anyone in the military she was a lesbian." AGAIN, NO she didn't.

If we had responsible media, they would have consistently reported for the last 17 years that DADT effectively means "gays can serve in the military as long as no one knows they're gay but themselves."

One hopes that if Obama Inc. does make use of third-party outings more difficult, the community will not be so dazzled [as they have been by other bones Obama has thrown us] that they say anything other than, "Thanks, but the discharge process is not the issue; that ANY gay servicemember can be discharged simply for being gay is. Retrieve your balls from that Pentagon storage locker, remember your powers as Commander-in-Chief [i.e., the military reports to you not vice versa] and 1. stop this phony study IMMEDIATELY, 2. order an immediate halt to ALL gay discharges in the name of national security, and 3. call every member of Congress and tell them that if they want you to campaign for their reelection and support for bills that benefit their states they will repeal DADT as quickly as Congressional procedurals permit.

As for the assertion that 80% self-out themselves, I believe the source of this is self-described DADT architect Charles Moskos. The man was a quack in more ways than one and I doubt documentation exists. It certainly would not explain why the numbers of people discharged have varied so much over the years, both before and after the WWII-era policy became law.

Eric Payne | March 16, 2010 2:19 AM

Michael,

Thank you for the clarification. You're correct in that I was completely unaware of how intricately structured DADTDP had become in its final form; I was working from my memory of what was told to the public (obviously, in its most simplistic form) when the policy was created.

Wow. Every so often, one runs across something like the DADTDP policy which proves the government can draft tight, cohesive, forward-looking legislation that covers all contingencies... it's a damned shame the government never seems to be able to craft and enact beneficial legislation in such a manner.

Amanda in the South Bay | March 16, 2010 1:34 PM

Just FYI, I was discharged from the Army in 2007 for coming out as trans-I actually started transitioning secretly for about a year in the military prior to coming out.

Having said that, I think that Newsome was an idiot.

It is entirely possible for cis LGB service members to lead an active, healthy life that is secret and apart from the military. A lot of it involves being prudent, safe, careful and just a little bit lucky.

There are even very good reasons why a service member would even enter into a same sex marriage, and its certainly doable, as long as a few conditions hold. And yes, same sex marriage is, in and of itself, grounds for discharge-i.e. the famous tripartite formula of "statements, acts or marriage."

I'd say that if you have less than a year left in the military, or have a job where you don't have to worry about renewing or applying for a security clearance, then yeah, if you stay well under the radar, why not? I mean, if your partner has benefits, and you are getting out of the military in a few months, why not get married?

But in this case, Newsome's partner herself,contributed to outing her. Look, drama is an inescapable part of the human condition, but if you are in a same sex marriage in the military, you partner can't have outstanding arrest warrants from bum fuck Alaska. I often imagine what it would be like to be a closeted cis LGB person in the armed forces, and this...this just boggles my mind. I realise very, very well people can be lonely and fall in love, blah blah blah. Its just that if you're in the military and do this, you gotta be really, really careful about who you fall in love with.