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Published: Wednesday, 4/27/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

West Point rejects lesbian cadet, saying 'don't ask, don't tell' is still in place

BLADE STAFF AND NEWS SERVICES
Katherine Miller, a former cadet at the U.S. Military Academy who quit over the "don't ask, don't tell policy, filed for reapplied to the school but was turned down. Katherine Miller, a former cadet at the U.S. Military Academy who quit over the "don't ask, don't tell policy, filed for reapplied to the school but was turned down.
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Findlay High School graduate Katherine “Katie” Miller has put aside her plans to graduate from West Point, even as the U.S. Military Academy holds out the chance that she might be readmitted once the repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell policy” takes effect.

Ms. Miller, a 2008 Findlay graduate, resigned from West Point last year, saying in an nationally televised interview that as a lesbian, the personal cost of the policy was too high.

She now attends Yale University, but applied for readmission to West Point. Her hope, she told The Blade late last year, was to rejoin the academy this fall as a junior.

“There’s still a piece of my heart if you will — to be corny — that’s still at West Point,” Ms. Miller said Wednesday night. “I wake up early every day. I work out six or seven days a week. It’s something I identify with, and the institution was good to me in many ways. Unfortunately, ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ impeded my personal progress.”

West Point officials recently told her that they said they had no choice but to reject her application, because the repeal of the policy barring gays from serving openly in the military is not in effect yet. The repeal did not occur immediately after President Barack Obama signed the legislation in December, as training and certification are required before the ban is lifted.

Ms. Miller was halfway through her stint at the academy when she left.

“While the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy was recently changed and will be repealed, the effective date has not yet been determined,” said Lt. Col. Sherri Reed, the academy’s director of public affairs, in a statement. “Due to this situation, West Point is unable to offer her readmission at this time.”

Ms. Miller became a prominent face in the national debate over gays serving openly.

The repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” is to go into effect 60 days after the president and senior defense advisers certify that it won’t hurt troops’ ability to fight. Training for service members began around March 1 and could be finished by summer’s end. Military officials have not set a date for repeal, though there are estimates it could happen by late summer or early fall.

“While at the academy Ms. Miller remained in good standing and had done exceptionally well academically, militarily and physically,” Colonel Reed said. “The choice to seek readmission is available to her once the repeal process is completed.”

Ms. Miller said she will keep her West Point application open.

“I think that’s relying on a lot of uncertainty,” she added.

So she is making plans for a future that includes furthering her education and a career in uniform. Mostly likely, she said, she will remain at Yale, where she would receive a bachelor’s degree in political science in 2012. She then would apply to Officer Candidate School, through which she would receive a commission in the Army. If she returned to West Point, she would not graduate until 2013.

“I still have this unwavering respect for the military, and it’s still a part of me,” she said.

Gay rights advocates have faulted the military for its policies in the past, but the executive director of Servicemembers United, an organization of gay and lesbian troops and veterans, said he didn’t think there was any ill will behind this decision.

“I think that should be expected from West Point,” said Alexander Nicholson. “I think their hands are tied.”

Mr. Nicholson doubts that there were any gay applicants to the service academies this year who were entirely certain the policy would be repealed by the start of classes, which is Aug. 15 for West Point.



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