COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The Navy has dropped dismissal proceedings against a South Carolina-based sailor who was charged with unprofessional conduct after he was found in the same bed with another male sailor, a spokesman said Friday.
The Navy no longer has a dismissal case against Petty Officer Stephen Jones, said spokesman Thomas Dougan, who wouldn't discuss any details.
Jones had contested his discharge for dereliction of duty. His attorney Gary Myers and an advocacy group for gay service members have said the Navy wanted to get rid of him because he was suspected of being gay. However, Myers said last month, there was no proof and no admission of homosexuality or homosexual conduct.
Jones, of Pensacola, Fla., and another sailor fell asleep on his bunk while watching "The Vampire Diaries" on a computer in February, according to Navy documents provided last month by Myers. Jones was on top of the covers and the other sailor under the covers, Meyers said. The other sailor left when Jones' roommate returned to the room shortly after midnight.
"The Navy undoubtedly did the right thing in reversing its decision to discharge Petty Officer Stephen Jones," said Alexander Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United, an organization of gay and lesbian troops and veterans. "We strongly suspected that his command was trying to find a roundabout way to discharge Jones because it suspected him of being gay, and we simply were not willing to stand by and watch a new version of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' emerge under the new label of 'unprofessional conduct.' "
Last December, President Obama signed a law repealing the 17-year-old "don't ask, don't tell" policy under which gay soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines were required to keep their homosexuality a secret or be dismissed.
The repeal did not occur immediately as training and certification by the department were required before the ban is lifted. Training for the service members began around March 1 and is slated to be finished by summer's end.
Myers previously said publicity from Jones' case could keep commanders from trying to drum up charges to use to dismiss openly gay service personnel.
Myers didn't immediately return a telephone message Friday.
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