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Military pay due to discharged gays

ALBUQUERQUE — About 180 gay and lesbian former military service members who were discharged due to their homosexuality will receive the rest of their severance pay under a settlement approved Monday by a federal court.

The American Civil Liberties Union said the $2.4 million settlement covers veterans who received only half of their separation pay under a policy that went into effect in 1991, two years before the ‘‘don’t ask, don’t tell’’ policy that banned openly gay soldiers from serving.

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Laura Schauer Ives, the managing attorney for the ACLU of New Mexico, called the settlement a ‘‘long-delayed justice.’’ ‘‘There was absolutely no need to subject these servicemembers to a double dose of discrimination by removing them from the armed forces in the first place, and then denying them this small benefit to ease the transition to civilian life,’’ she said.

The case was filed in 2010 by the ACLU on behalf of Richard Collins of Clovis, N.M., a former Air Force staff sergeant. He was honorably discharged in 2006 after two civilians reported they saw him kiss his boyfriend in a car about 10 miles from his base. The decorated sergeant was off duty and not in uniform.

Separation pay is granted to personnel who serve at least six years but are involuntarily and honorably discharged. The Defense Department conditions that triggered an automatic reduction in that pay included homosexuality, unsuccessful drug or alcohol treatment, or discharge in the interests of national security.

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