The US Senate entered its August recess last week, without taking up a defense authorization bill that includes language which would allow the Pentagon to lift its Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. Still, with that vote now at least a month away, many in the media have refocused their attention on the issue, thanks largely to decorated Air Force flight officer Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach. The 20-year veteran of the military believes he is about to be discharged under the policy. On Wednesday, attorneys for Colonel Fehrenbach filed a request federal court seeking a restraining order that would block his discharge.Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which is assisting Colonel Fehrenbach, released a statement from him on Wednesday. He said “I have been waiting more than two years for the Air Force to do the right thing by letting me continue to proudly serve my country. To say that I’m disappointed with where things stand would be a monumental understatement — I am crushed." His fate is now in the hands of Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley, who according to Colonel Fehrenbach's attorneys can either approve a discharge, allow a discharge to go forward without his approval, or stop the discharge. SLDN President Aubrey Sarvis said " Why and how the hell do we end up firing our best and brightest when we’re fighting in two wars? If Secretary Donley does not step in, this nation will lose a service member worth $25 million in training whose skill sets are desperately needed today." Attorney M. Andrew Woodmansee told the New York Times that the conditions under which Colonel Fehrenbach was investigated do not meet the standards set by Defense Secretary Robert Gates earlier this year. And, he says, thanks to a 2008 federal circuit court ruling, in order to discharge someone under the policy within the ninth circuit (which includes Idaho, where Colonel Fehrenbach was assigned) the government most prove a discharge is necessary to significantly further an important government interest. Woodmansee says in Fehrenbach's case, the Pentagon will not be able to do so. Both Woodmansee and Fehrenbach appeared on the Rachel Maddow Show last night. Woodmansee said that Colonel Fehrenbach's 2010 officer performance report specifically said that he "raised morale." Fehrenbach told Maddow the Air Force "brought nothing to the discharge board" that proved he was "detrimental to good order of discipline, morale, and unit cohesion." He said "we hope this helps other pending cases and other cases that fall under these new enforcement standards."
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