808 F.Supp. 1455 (C.D.Cal. 1993), CV 92-6044, Meinhold v. United States Dept. of Defense

Docket Nº:CV 92-6044 TJH (JRx).
Citation:808 F.Supp. 1455
Party Name:Volker Keith MEINHOLD, Plaintiff, v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, et al., Defendants.
Case Date:January 29, 1993
Court:United States District Courts, 9th Circuit, Central District of California
 
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Page 1455

808 F.Supp. 1455 (C.D.Cal. 1993)

Volker Keith MEINHOLD, Plaintiff,

v.

UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, et al., Defendants.

No. CV 92-6044 TJH (JRx).

United States District Court, C.D. California.

Jan. 29, 1993

Page 1456

Harry G. Melkonian, Christopher L. Rudd, John I. McGuire, White & Case, Los Angeles, CA, for plaintiff.

Stuart M. Gerson, Asst. Atty. Gen., Teree A. Bowers, U.S. Atty., Vincent M. Garvey, David M. Glass, Attys., Dept. of Justice, Washington, DC, for defendants.

AMENDED OPINION

HATTER, District Judge.

BACKGROUND

In 1980, at the age of 17, Volker Keith Meinhold enlisted in the United States Navy. Over the last twelve years, Meinhold has established a reputation for being a dedicated and disciplined sailor. As such, he earned his position as a Naval airborne sonar analyst and instructor. He has consistently received outstanding evaluations and has never been the subject of disciplinary action.

In 1992, Meinhold was discharged from the Navy and deprived of his career after he announced on an ABC television news program that he was gay. Meinhold was discharged not because he engaged in prohibited conduct, but because he labeled himself as gay. Meinhold filed this action in response to his discharge. Previously, this Court issued a preliminary injunction ordering the Navy to reinstate Meinhold pending a final resolution of this case.

The Court, now, decides this case on the merits based on the cross motions for summary judgment. The parties are in agreement on the relevant facts, and the Court finds that there are no genuine issues of material fact to preclude the rendering of a decision based on the law of the land. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). While Meinhold, also, attacks the administrative discharge procedures used by the Navy, the key issue presented to the Court is whether the United States Department of Defense may ban, from the armed forces of the United States, gays and lesbians who do not engage in prohibited conduct.

DISCUSSION

Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

While it is clear to this Court that there were numerous procedural errors committed by the board of Naval officers convened for Meinhold's administrative discharge hearing, it is also undisputed that a new hearing would result in the same decision. Namely, Meinhold would, again, be discharged based on his status as a homosexual.

Page 1457

Thus, requiring Meinhold to exhaust his intraservice remedies would be futile. See, Watkins v. U.S. Army, 875 F.2d 699, 705 (9th Cir. 1989) (en banc), cert. denied, 498 U.S. 957, 111 S.Ct. 384, 112 L.Ed.2d 395 (1990). Therefore, this Court will proceed to the merits of Meinhold's claims.

Equal Protection

To survive Meinhold's claim that the Department of Defense's policy banning gays and lesbians based merely on status, and not conduct, violates the Equal Protection clause of the Fifth Amendment, the Department of Defense must establish, through a factual record, that its policy is rationally related to its permissible goals. Pruitt v. Cheney, 963 F.2d 1160, 1166-67 (9th Cir. 1991), cert. denied, 506 U.S. 1020, 113 S.Ct. 655, 121 L.Ed.2d 581 (1992). In determining whether the policy is rationally related, the Court cannot merely defer to the "military judgment" as the rationale for the policy--the Court must consider the factual basis underlying the "military judgment." Pruitt, 963 F.2d at 1166-67.

The Navy contends that its ban against gays and lesbians is rationally related to its goals of maintaining discipline, good order and morale; fostering mutual trust and confidence among servicemembers; the need to recruit and retain servicemembers; and maintaining public acceptability of the Navy. Navy Military Personal Manual 3630400(1). Security concerns, once generally raised by supporters of the ban, however, are no longer a rationale, since gays and lesbians are not a security risk to the military, according to former Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney. Meet the Press (NBC television broadcast, Dec. 6, 1992).

The factual record placed before the Court by the Department of Defense is sparse. The Navy rests solely on a report produced by the United States General Accounting Office in June of 1992. General Accounting Office, Defense Force Management: Statistics Related to DoD's Policy on Homosexuality (1992)....

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