A lesbian chief petty officer will face a trial by court-martial for "fraternization" after for entering relationship, and a civil union, with a female petty officer first class she met while she was on duty in Afghanistan.
Sabrina Russell met Jodi Geibel on Facebook in 2010. Russell was researching assignment opportunities in the Great Lakes region, where Geibel is stationed. At that point, they were the same rank and pay grade, but by the time she reported for duty in 2012 at the Great Lakes base, Russell was promoted to chief. Within months, the pair covertly dated, and in November, Russell and Geibel, both 31, entered a civil union, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Though their relationship did not cause any rifts on base, their attorney said, someone discovered a photo of their civil union ceremony on Russell's phone, and the image circulated among base personnel.
According to the Navy, the civil union violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice because Geibel is a lower rank, the Tribune reports.
A Navy spokesman said their sexual orientation had nothing to do with the court-martial. Instead, Lt. Matthew Comer said it was because senior enlisted personnel are not allowed to be romantically involved with junior personnel within the same command. He told the Tribune that Russell would be treated the same if she was part of a heterosexual relationship.
"If this were a test case for stupidity, this would be it," Russell's attorney Eric Montalvo said to the Tribune. He said his client and her partner are being discriminated against because their sexual orientation currently prevents Russell and Geibel from getting legally married in their state of Illinois. Those in the military who can marry others of a lower rank would likely avoid the violation.
Russell reportedly chose to be court-martialed instead of facing a nonjudicial punishment. She faces being discharged from the military if found guilty.