June 9, 2018 at 8:23 am EDT | by Staff reports
HIV+ Army sergeant sues to continue serving
Lambda Legal, gay news, Washington Blade

Sgt. Nick Harrison (Photo courtesy of Lambda Legal)

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN filed a lawsuit May 30 on behalf of a sergeant in the D.C. Army National Guard who was denied the opportunity to serve as an officer and faces possible discharge from the United States armed services because he is living with HIV, the two agencies announced in a press release.

The lawsuit challenges the Pentagon’s current policies preventing enlistment, deployment or commissioning as an officer if a person is living with HIV, and likely would affect implementation of the new “Deploy or Get Out” policy unveiled by the Trump administration in February.

Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on behalf of Sgt. Nick Harrison, a veteran of two overseas combat zones who was denied a position in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps because current Pentagon policy considers service members living with HIV non-deployable, and will not allow them to enlist or to be appointed as officers.

“After serving in Afghanistan and Kuwait, I knew I wanted to become an officer in the U.S. Army and a leader for all of the great men and women in our armed forces,” Harrison said. “I spent years acquiring the training and skills to serve my country as a lawyer. This should be a no-brainer. It’s frustrating to be turned away by the country I have served since I was 23 years old, especially because my HIV has no effect on my service. It was an honor to be chosen to join the JAG Corps for the D.C. National Guard, and I look forward to my first day on the job.”

OutServe-SLDN is also an organizational plaintiff in this case to advance the interests of its members who are living with HIV and serving in the military. In a companion lawsuit entitled Voe v. Mattis, Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN are representing an anonymous service member living with HIV whom the Air Force refused to commission as an officer after he graduated from the Air Force Academy, despite recommendations from medical personnel to do so.

“Nick’s situation is the perfect example of just how archaic and harmful the military policies regarding people living with HIV really are,” said Scott Schoettes, counsel and HIV project director at Lambda Legal.

The “Deploy or Get Out” policy was announced on Feb. 14 and directs the Pentagon to identify service members who cannot be deployed to military posts outside of the United States for more than 12 consecutive months and to separate them from military service. Because current U.S. military policy identifies service members living with HIV as non-deployable, they could face immediate discharge under this new policy.

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