TOPEKA — These days Amy Brian, a former Kansas Army National Guard specialist, can hold hands with her partner without fear of discovery.
She can sit next to her in a restaurant booth and not worry about what people think, what they might say, what they might do.
Still, Brian cannot forget how her service in the Guard officially ended last month after a civilian co-worker said she saw Brian kissing a woman in a Wal-Mart checkout line.
"I got along with everybody," said Brian, 34, seated on the couch of her Topeka home. "My close friends knew I was gay. I never said it – it was just known and wasn't a problem."
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Brian is the only gay person to be discharged from the Kansas Army National Guard under the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which was introduced during the Clinton administration in 1993 and which the military began implementing in 1994. About 12,500 lesbian, homosexual and bisexual service members were discharged under the policy between 1994 and 2007. Figures for 2008 are not yet available.
The policy bans military recruiters or authorities from asking someone about his or her sexual orientation, but it also prohibits a service member from revealing if he or she is gay.
"This decision was not based on performance, but federal law," Sharon Watson, public affairs director for the Kansas adjutant general's office, said of Brian's discharge. "We recognize the sensitivity of the issue. It's a federal law all military must follow."
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