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Sergeant sues police department over 'outing'

Jene Newsome played by the rules as an Air Force sergeant: She never told anyone in the military she was a lesbian.

The 28-year-old's honorable discharge in January under the "don't ask, don't tell" policy came only after police officers in Rapid City, S.D., saw an Iowa marriage certificate in her home and told the nearby Ellsworth Air Force Base.

Newsome and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint against the police department, claiming the officers violated her privacy when they informed the military about her sexual orientation. The case also highlights concerns over the ability of third parties to "out" service members, especially as the Pentagon has started reviewing the 1993 "don't ask, don't tell" law.

"I played by 'don't ask, don't tell,' " Newsome told The Associated Press by telephone. The police department "violated a lot of internal policies on their end, and I feel like my privacy was violated."

The "don't ask, don't tell" policy has come under renewed debate after Defense Secretary Robert Gates called for a sweeping internal study on the law earlier this year.

As the review is under way, officials were also expected to suggest ways to relax enforcement that may include minimizing cases of third-party outings. In particular, Gates has suggested that the military might not have to expel someone whose sexual orientation was revealed by a third party out of vindictiveness or suspect motives.

The Rapid City Police Department says Newsome, an aircraft armament system craftsman who spent nine years in the Air Force, was not cooperative when they showed up at her home in November with an arrest warrant for her partner, who was wanted on theft charges in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Newsome was at work at the base at the time and refused to immediately come home and assist the officers in finding her partner, whom she legally married in Iowa in October.

Police officers, who said they spotted the marriage license on the kitchen table through a window of Newsome's home, alerted the base, police Chief Steve Allender said in a statement sent to the AP. Allender said an internal investigation determined the officers acted appropriately.

Newsome's partner is out on bail on one felony and three misdemeanor counts of theft stemming from an incident last year, court officials in Fairbanks said.

In the complaint filed last month with the department, ACLU South Dakota said police had no legal reason to tell the military Newsome was a lesbian and that officers knew if they did, it would jeopardize her military career.

The ACLU is focusing its complaint on the police department, not the military, and Newsome said she and her attorney have not yet decided on whether to file a lawsuit.

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