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Discharged Air Force sergeant, outed as lesbian, wants to re-enlist now that gay ban has been lifted

By MARC LEVY, Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- A female sergeant who was discharged from the Air Force last year after South Dakota police reported her marriage to a woman wants to re-enlist now that the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in uniform has been lifted.

Jene Newsome said Wednesday that she's happy the ban has been lifted and that she's eager to restart her military career. But she also feels as though the sense of jubilation she would have felt by serving in the military when the ban was lifted was stolen from her.

"Just to have that liberation, and just to be able to celebrate and come out to your co-workers, and ... not refer to my wife as my friend when I'm around some of my co-workers or at events for the military," Newsome said. "To actually be able to speak with your co-workers about that particular person in your life and not have to really walk around the subject being afraid that you're going to say something that kind of outs you."

Repeal of the 18-year-old legal provision known as "don't ask, don't tell" - under which gays could serve as long as they didn't openly acknowledge their sexual orientation - took effect Tuesday.

Newsome, 29, now lives in Harrisburg, where she was born and raised. She plans to go to the recruiter's office Oct. 1, the day the recruiter told her jobs will open up for people who were previously enlisted.

Service members who were discharged under "don't ask, don't tell" will be allowed to re-enlist, but their applications will not be given priority over those of any others with prior military experience who are seeking to re-enlist.

Newsome enlisted less than a year after she graduated from high school and rose to the rank of sergeant, loading munitions onto aircraft and maintaining weapons systems inside jets, including the weapons' electrical and suspension equipment.

Newsome was working at Ellsworth Air Force Base in November 2009 when Rapid City, S.D., police, serving an out-of-state warrant against her partner, noticed a marriage certificate from neighboring Iowa, where gay marriage is legal.

Rapid City police have said Newsome was not cooperative when officers showed up at her home with an arrest warrant for her wife, who was wanted on theft charges in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Officers spotted the marriage license on the kitchen table through a window and alerted the base. The Air Force later gave Newsome an honorable discharge.

On behalf of Newsome, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint with the police department, which subsequently changed its policy for releasing information to the military, although its chief defended the officers' actions.

"Our position on the matter is unchanged. It is unfortunate that Ms. Newsome's career ended as a result of the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. We sincerely wish her the best in her future endeavors," Rapid City police Capt. Deb Cady said in a statement Wednesday.

A lawyer for Newsome also has notified Rapid City of an impending lawsuit, though Newsome did not want to discuss her plans Wednesday.

Newsome - who is looking for work while her wife is in Alaska taking care of personal tasks she didn't elaborate on - said she was extremely upset when she was discharged, but she isn't bitter toward the military.

"I love the Air Force," she said.

The Rapid City police, however, get no such glowing words from her, especially after they took away a celebration to which she had looked forward since President Barack Obama made it a campaign pledge to end "don't ask, don't tell."

"That experience was taken away from me when I was outed by the police department. They got to put everything out there," she said. "I feel as though that that was up to me, if I wanted to come out, then I should have been able to come out on my own and not be outed by the police department, of all people."

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