This Gay Veteran Is Suing the U.S. Military for Discriminating Against HIV-Positive Servicemembers
Nick Harrison (pictured above), an openly gay, HIV-positive veteran of the D.C. Army National Guard, is suing the U.S. Department of Defense over a policy that’s basically a military HIV ban. The policy, nicknamed “Deploy or Get Out,” states HIV-positive military service members can’t be deployed to military posts outside of the United States for more than a year. As such, HIV-positive military members can be immediately discharged from the military, prohibited from being appointed as officers or even prevented from enlisting altogether, as they’re not allowed to serve abroad for as long as others.
Nick Harrison and his lawyers argue that the policy is based on an outdated understanding of HIV and violates the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing all citizens due process and equal protection under the law. (That is, you can’t treat HIV-positive Americans differently than HIV-negative Americans.)
In fact, in their legal filing, Harrison’s lawyers pointed out that a 25-year-old with HIV who is quickly diagnosed and under medical treatment has a lifespan almost identical to a 25-year-old without HIV.
They also pointed out that the military regularly allows people with other comparable chronic illnesses and manageable medical conditions to enlist and travel abroad.
“These oppressive restrictions are based on antiquated science that reinforces stigma and denies perfectly qualified service members the full ability to serve their country,” said Scott Schoettes, Harrison’s legal counsel and HIV Project Director at Lambda Legal, a legal LGBTQ rights organization. “Recruitment, retention, deployment and commissioning should be based on a candidate’s qualifications to serve, not unfounded fears about HIV.”
The military HIV ban makes even less sense when you consider the thousands of dollars and immense amounts of hands-on training required to train a soldier. Dismissing soldiers when they become HIV-positive effectively throws that money away, and denying prospective recruits or potential officers based on their HIV status furthers no compelling government interest other than a desire to discriminate, plain and simple.