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Reservist seeking conscientious objector status says he's gay

Thursday, April 3, 2003

SAN FRANCISCO -- A 20-year-old Marine reservist seeking to be discharged as a conscientious objector has given himself a second way out -- he's told military leaders he's gay.

"I believe that as a gay man, someone who is misunderstood by much of the general population, I have a great deal of experience with hatred and oppression," Lance Cpl. Stephen Funk wrote in his application for a conscientious objector discharge.

Funk turned himself in to the Marines on Tuesday after being absent without leave since mid-February, when his support battalion was sent to Camp Pendleton near San Diego. He has been assigned desk duty in San Jose while his case proceeds.

Funk, whose father served in Vietnam, said he grew uncomfortable with the military when he was made to shout "Kill! Kill! Kill!" during a basic training exercise. Since his training, he said, he has gone to every major anti-war rally in the San Francisco Bay area.

Funk said in his application that the military "perpetuates feelings of hatred against all that are different" to dehumanize potential enemies.

Funk's lawyer, Stephen Collier, acknowledged that if the Marine Corps refuses to grant him conscientious objector status, Funk probably will be discharged for violating the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy by declaring his homosexuality. The policy allows gays and lesbians to serve as long as they keep quiet about their sexual orientation.

Capt. Patrick O'Rourke, a spokesman for Funk's unit, did not immediately return a phone call Wednesday seeking comment about Funk's announcement that he is gay. Earlier he had said the Marines will treat Funk's case fairly.

Northwestern University sociology professor Charles Moskos, who helped write the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, was critical of Funk.

"As a legitimate conscientious objector he should try to defend his argument on moral and ethical grounds," he said. "Why do the double track?"

It's unclear how many conscientious objector applications have been filed since the Iraq war began. Military officials said 28 were granted last year, and 111 were granted during the Gulf War.

More than 1,200 servicepeople were discharged for being gay in 2001, but the number decreased to 906 in 2002, according to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.


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