A lesbian U.S. Army private fled to Canada after being outed by a fellow soldier, claiming she’d received a death threat from fellow soldiers. In a first, Canadian authorities are considering her asylum request as a “persecuted political refugee.”
Federal Court Justice Yves de Montigny’s order for the board to consider a gay U.S. soldier as a credible refugee candidate is believed to be a first, said a spokesman for the U.S. military. “I have never heard of anybody attempting to do that before,” said army spokesman Lt.-Col. Christopher Garver. Pte. Bethany Smith, 21, will have another chance to argue her case for staying in Canada, rather than face deportation and a possible court martial in the U.S. for fleeing the military base at Fort Campbell, Ky., two years ago. “I did a happy dance when I heard,” said the deserter, now an Ottawa call centre worker who has adopted the name Skyler James. Smith, who says she was outed by another soldier who spotted her walking hand-in-hand with a woman at a shopping mall, contends in court documents that she was badgered daily, saddled with extra work by her superiors and received more than 100 threatening notes on her dormitory door, including a death threat.
Smith says that after being outed, she requested a discharge under DADT but was told the paperwork would not be completed until after she returned from her previously scheduled deployment to Afghanistan. No American soldier, including draft evaders, has ever been granted asylum in Canada.