TV & Radio
Ex-AFN host is discharged from Navy for 'don't ask, don't tell' violation
By Vince Little, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Monday, July 31, 2006
A former award-winning Navy journalist who spent three years at AFN Tokyo has been kicked out for violating the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which prohibits openly lesbian, gay and bisexual personnel from serving in the armed forces.
Petty Officer 1st Class Rhonda Davis, a 10-year veteran, wore her uniform to attend a June 3 rally on New York’s Brooklyn Bridge supporting same-sex marriage. Identifying herself as a sailor to radio station 1010 WINS, she endorsed gay marriage, saying she looked forward to someday marrying her partner of more than three years.
The Navy launched discharge proceedings two days later. Navy spokesman Jeff Nichols told 1010 WINS Davis’ comments violated military policy, the station reported on its Web site.
Davis wrote in an e-mail, “After much inner struggle, after having to be separated from my Korean girlfriend because she can’t stay in the States without a work visa or a green card, and we can’t get married ... I went to a march for marriage equality.
“I spoke openly about my relationship to news reporters and thus violated the military’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy. I told them I’m in love with this girl I’ve dated for three years and we want to get married.”
Assigned to Yokota Air Base, Japan, from 2002 to 2005, Davis was most widely known as host of the Eagle 810 Morning Show. She was named Stars and Stripes AFN Personality of the Year in 2005 for her “Help Me Rhonda” weekday morning show.
Davis then became the public affairs officer at a Navy recruiting district in New York. Friday was her last day in uniform.
“My sexual orientation has never stood in the way of getting my job done,” Davis said in a July 17 news release by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which represents her. “I was looking forward to continuing my Navy career.”
The SLDN release stated that the Defense Department has discharged more than 11,000 servicemembers since 1993 under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Citing the Government Accountability Office, it said more than 800 of them were trained in skills the Pentagon has identified as “mission-critical.” A blue-ribbon panel recently estimated the ban’s cost at about $363.8 million; the Pentagon has said it cost less.
The number of discharges for homosexuality “represent 0.3 percent of overall discharges and should be viewed in that context,” Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke, a Defense Department spokeswoman, said in February, in response to questions about the ban’s cost.
Said Sharra E. Greer, SLDN law and policy director: “While heterosexual military personnel can proclaim their love from the San Francisco Bridge to the Brooklyn Bridge without consequence, lesbian or gay servicemembers who do the same are sent packing because their proclamation is about someone of the same gender.”
Davis says she’ll continue to seek an end to the federal law. On Saturday, she was headed to Norfolk, Va., for a town-hall meeting and more media interviews.
“I am not, nor will I ever be, anti-military,” she wrote. “I have served my country for 10 years and I have (or rather ‘had’) the best job in the Navy. I don’t want to bash the military; what I want is the right to serve as an openly gay woman.
“The military ... puts honor, courage, and commitment as high priorities — and lying about who you are violates my personal integrity.”