A gay US Air Force officer was forced to reveal his sexuality in order to clear himself of a false rape allegation, an admission which cost him his job.
According to Associated Press, Lt Col Victor Fehrenbach was discharged under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell last year but is now using his story to highlight the injustices suffered by those fired under the law.
In 2008, he was questioned by police over an alleged rape of an acquaintance. Although his accuser Cameron Shaner was later discredited and found to be an “unreliable source of information”, Fehrenbach had to admit the pair had engaged in consensual sex at his home after meeting on a gay website. Police found no evidence of the alleged rape.
Although he was soon cleared, the Air Force had a legal right to see the statement in which he admitted having consensual gay sex and he was notified last year that he would be discharged.
Emily Hecht, a lawyer for the Servicemembers Legal Defence Fund, said: “Because of the criminal allegation, Victor confirmed the fact he was gay.
“That’s all the Air Force needed. Had his accuser been a woman, he’d have gone back to work with no further issue.”
Fehrenbach’s parents had both served in the Air Force and retired at the time of their choice. With 18 years in service, he was only two years away from a $46,000 annual pension.
He is currently on desk duty at Mountain Home as assistant director of operations for the 366th Operations Support Squadron.
Since his dismissal, Fehrenbach has come out to his parents and appeared on the Rachel Maddow Show.
Appearing on the show in May, he said: “I was faced with the end of my life as I knew it . . . The more I thought about it, about how wrong this policy is, I thought that I had to fight. And perhaps, with my unique perspective, I could speak out and help other people in the meantime.”
Since Fehrenbach’s discharge notification, pressure to repeal the 1993 law has been stepped up and US defence secretary Robert Gates has mentioned the idea of a more nuanced interpretation of the law, one which would see those outed by others with questionable motives being treated more leniently.
It is not yet known when he will officially leave service although he believes it will be this autumn.
Despite the circumstances of his case, and his new role as the poster boy in the fight against DADT, Fehrenbach has said he will happily rejoin the armed forces should the law be repealed.