Lawyers for a Marine sergeant who is being dismissed from the service for criticizing President Obama on Facebook will continue to fight for him in federal civilian court, the lawyers said Wednesday.
The lawyers from the ACLU and the conservative U.S. Justice Foundation said that the 1st Amendment rights of Sgt. Gary Stein were violated when a Marine general chose to dismiss him. The lawyers hope to win reinstatement for Stein.
Brig. Gen. Daniel Yoo accepted the unanimous recommendation Wednesday of an Administrative Separation Board at Camp Pendleton that Stein be dismissed for making disparaging comments about the commander-in-chief that were disruptive to “good order and discipline” and violated military law.
But the ACLU’s David Loy disagreed.
“I don’t believe Sgt. Stein did anything other than engage in political speech,” he said Wednesday after the announcement. “Since the days of Valley Forge, I seriously doubt that there haven’t been members of the armed forces who haven’t complained about their government.”
The lawyers said they are not exactly sure what legal strategy they will take but said they would continue the fight in federal court. Stein also has the right to appeal Yoo’s decision through the military, up to the Secretary of Navy Ray Mabus.
After the announcement of Yoo’s decision, Stein put a post on his Facebook thanking his family and friends for their support.
“Even though I will be discharged no one can take the title of Marine away from me,” the post said. “…Today is just the start of the rest of my life. Semper Fi.”
Stein, 26, a nine-year veteran who served in Iraq, had called Obama a coward and an enemy, vowed not to salute him and called for his defeat in this year’s election.
One of the websites was an Armed Forces Tea Party page on Facebook that was created by Stein, who sought to sell bumper stickers printed with “NOBAMA 2012.”
Stein’s civilian lawyers had sought to have his discharge blocked in federal court on the grounds that his 1st Amendment rights were being violated by the Marine Corps. A federal judge in San Diego refused their request.
Stein was informed of the general’s decision Wednesday. It will take at least a week for the administrative paperwork to be completed, a Marine spokesman said. Yoo is commanding general of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.
A weather forecaster, Stein had recently lost his security clearance and was working as a scheduler on the rifle range at Camp Pendleton.
A Marine spokesman said Yoo “found the [separation] board was conducted in accordance with law and regulation, that the findings of misconduct were supported by the evidence of record, and thus approved the board’s recommendation.”
Yoo accepted the board’s recommendation that Stein be given an other-than-honorable discharge.
Stein is being demoted to lance corporal. His discharge status will make him ineligible for most veterans benefits. The separation board consisted of a lieutenant colonel, a major and a sergeant-major.