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Panel votes unanimously to retain openly gay sailor

WASHINGTON – A three-member panel voted unanimously late Thursday that the Navy not discharge an openly gay sailor under the not-yet-repealed “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

During the hearing at Lemore Naval Air Station in California, defense attorneys called four witnesses to testify to Petty Officer 2nd Class Derek Morado’s good conduct and character, according to the advocacy group GetEQUAL. The prosecution called none.

Attorneys also argued that given the imminent repeal of the 17-year-old policy, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus would be unlikely to approve the discharge. Defense Secretary Robert Gates directed in October that all discharges had to be expressly approved by the secretary of the service and the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness. Nobody has been discharged since then.

“Today was a victory, and we're grateful to Derek for lending his story and his voice to highlight the fact that servicemembers are still facing the discharge process, even 100 days after the law was repealed,” GetEQUAL director Robin McGehee said in a statement.

Morado was outed in November 2009 after he posted photos of him kissing another man on his MySpace page, but his case sat idle while the Pentagon studied the consequences of repeal ahead of a congressional vote on the matter.

Then Morado was notified earlier this month that his discharge would proceed, according to GetEQUAL.

The repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” won’t be officially finished until 60 days after the president, the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff all sign off that the military’s ability to fight won’t be adversely affected by lifting the ban. It’s expected to happen late this year after each of the services completes training on the repeal.

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