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SLDN calls for an investigation into the death of lesbian servicemember

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) has asked the Pentagon to investigate the death of Specialist Ciara Durkin, a lesbian service member with the Massachusetts Army National Guard.

The Boston Herald reported on Monday that Durkin “was found with a single gunshot wound to her head behind a building at Bagram Airbase on Sept. 27.”  Prior to her death, Durkin told her family that she had “seen things that she didn’t like and she had raised concerns that had annoyed some people,” and that family members should demand an official investigation should something happen to her.  Durkin was scheduled to return to the United States in January, and planned to marry her partner in her home state of Massachusetts.

Durkin’s sister, Fiona Canavan, told the Boston Globe that, while evidence does not clearly point to a hate crime, the family has no evidence to the contrary, either.  “Ciara was a lesbian, and that's bound to come out,” Canavan said. “It is possible that someone over there found that out, and, you know, maybe they were very homophobic.”

Also, there may be other servicemembers who have information on the circumstances surrounding  Durkin's death, people who may be reluctant to come forward because it may trigger a Don't Ask, Don't Tell inquiry. SLDN is offering a confidential way for them to report any leads.

“Servicemembers Legal Defense Network appreciates any steps the Army can take to investigate the facts surrounding Specialist Durkin’s death.  We have seen in similar investigations in the past, however, that some service personnel are understandably hesitant to reveal information to military investigators out of fear that they, too, may be investigated because of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’  It is important that military members understand that they can report information confidentially to legal aid organizations, such as SLDN, that may be helpful in bringing facts in the case to light.  At the same time, we urge the Army not to use any evidence made available by service members to target them for dismissal because of their sexual orientation when revealing that information be necessary in cooperating with the investigation.”

Anyone with information can call (202) 328-FAIR or email SLDN at legal@sldn.org.

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Pam Spaulding

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