Army vet discharged for ‘homosexuality’ successfully petitions for different reason

Michael Walsh
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Alex Nicholson

Alex Nicholson, a former U.S. Army human intelligence collector, founded and served as the executive director for Servicemembers United.

The U.S. Department of Defense sent an Army veteran a letter saying that the reason for his separation from the military on his discharge paperwork would be changed from “homosexuality” to "secretarial authority."

Alexander Nicholson, 33, of Washington, D.C., filled out paperwork requesting the change on his Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty, or DD214, but forgot about it until the mail arrived Monday.

The Army Discharge Review Board determined “the narrative reason” for his discharge “is now inequitable based on the current standard.”

“It’s really heartwarming to see the DOD’s effort to be inclusive,” Nicholson said in an interview with Yahoo News Tuesday. “You can kind of tell that they are owning it and trying to make it right if you flag it and ask for it to be removed.”

Nicholson, who was raised in South Carolina, was honorably discharged from his post with the Army as a human intelligence collector after being outed in March 2002.

He was one of thousands of gay intelligence personnel to lose their jobs in the post-9/11 world — when the need for qualified people in those roles to help protect the nation was particularly high.

Nicholson became the public face of the fight against "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" after founding Servicemembers United, a one-issue organization dedicated to overturning the discriminatory policy.

In 2011, he wrote a book, "Fighting to Serve,” about his experiences in the fight to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

But the branding of “homosexuality” on his DD214 hung over his head like a “little scarlet H.”

“It’s a little awkward because you have to show your military paperwork to people sometimes,” he said. “Especially when you’re younger and going for employment, you’re basically outed every time.”

Nicholson says the DOD had been willing to discriminate against homosexuals beyond what the law even required, but now it has swung in the opposite direction — trying to make amends for past transgressions.

“You can kind of tell that they have really taken a sympathetic view to those who had that happen to them during that era,” he said.

Nicholson, who now works as a consultant on veterans and defense issues, plans to frame and display his old and new DD214s side by side, proudly.

In December 2010, the House of Representatives and the Senate voted to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell." Later that month President Barack Obama signed that decision into law and the policy officially ended on September 20, 2011.