Guns and Gear

Federal judge refuses to halt separation hearing for ‘tea party Marine’

Despite a coalition of lawyers filing suit to stop the proceedings, a “tea party Marine” facing discharge from the Marine Corps for criticizing President Barack Obama will have to go through with a separation hearing on Thursday.

On Wednesday a federal judge refused to stop the separation hearing for Sgt. Gary Stein, a Camp Pendleton Marine facing an “‘other than honorable’ discharge from the military for posting criticisms of the commander in chief on his ‘Armed Forces Tea Party’ Facebook page,” Fox 5 in San Diego reported.

Stein’s actions allegedly violated a military rule regulating the political speech of service members.

The American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego & Imperial Counties, along with lawyers from the United States Justice Foundation and Oath Keepers, filed suit on behalf of Sgt. Gary Stein earlier in the week seeking to halt the hearing.

They argued that the U.S. military was violating his right to free speech as a private citizen.

“The military may be different from the civilian world, but it’s not exempt from the First Amendment,” David Loy, legal director for ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties, said in a statement. “Sergeant Stein didn’t say anything for which the Marine Corps has any right to punish him. He did not threaten order or discipline or take positions that anyone would attribute to the Corps. Indeed, the Corps is threatening loyalty and morale by persecuting a good Marine for exercising his free speech rights.”

Despite his lawyers’ objections, U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn Huff refused to issue a temporary restraining order for the separation hearing, arguing that the panel’s verdict was not yet known and that Sgt. Stein had not shown he would suffer “irreparable harm” if the hearing occurred.

California Republican Reps. Duncan Hunter and Darrell Issa have publicly thrown their support behind Stein.

Fox 5 noted that Stein’s lawyers had also asked the Marine Corps to delay the hearing, but the request was denied.

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