Murder of Lesbian Soldier 'Hate Crime?' No Evidence, Yet?

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:23 PM EDT

( - A group that's pressing for homosexuals to serve openly in the U.S. military says the Pentagon must conduct a "full and thorough investigation" into the death of a National Guard member who was shot on a U.S. base in Afghanistan last month.

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) described Specialist Ciara Durkin as a lesbian service member with the Massachusetts Army National Guard.

"Specialist Durkin's family deserves to know what happened," said Aubrey Sarvis, SLDN's executive director. "Though we have no evidence, at the moment, to conclude that this was a hate-motivated crime, numerous questions demand that military leaders must search for the answers."

On Thursday, SLDN joined Durkin's family, Sens. Edward Kennedy and John Kerry and Rep. William Delahunt, all Massachusetts Democrats, in calling for a thorough investigation.

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 was quoted as saying. "It is possible that someone over there found that out, and, you know, maybe they were very homophobic."

Press reports said Durkin was found dead, shot once in the head, behind a building at Bagram Airbase.

Before she died, she reportedly told her sister that she had "discovered some things I don't like, and I made some enemies because of it.'" She reportedly told her family to demand an investigation if something happened to her.

The Pentagon says only that Ciara died in a "non-combat related incident" on Sept. 27 and that an investigation is under way.

SLDN said Durkin was scheduled to return to the United States in January and planned to marry her partner in her home state of Massachusetts.

In a letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Sen. Kerry Urged the Defense Department to "deploy your staff on this matter immediately, so that the answers and circumstances around Specialist Durkin's death are uncovered, expeditiously and thoroughly."

"Specialist Durkin was a first-class soldier and her family deserves first-class treatment from military leaders," SLDN's Sarvis said. "We will not rest until the facts surrounding her death are known and her family is satisfied that they have received all relevant information about the murder."

Federal law says that "homosexuality is incompatible with military service." But in 1993, then-President Bill Clinton -- in an effort to mollify homosexuals -- announced his "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, which said homosexuals could serve in the military as long as they kept quiet about their sexual orientation.

See Earlier Stories:
Dems Vow to Repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Rule (Aug. 10, 2007)
Conservatives Rally Around General Pace (March 15, 2007)
Homosexuals See Momentum Shifting Against 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' (March 1, 2007)Subscribe to the free daily E-Brief.

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.