Armed Forces News

Two active-duty airmen who are HIV-positive asked a panel of three federal judges to overturn a Trump administration mandate that they and any other service members who carry the virus be discharged.

During Sept. 18 arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4thCircuit in Richmond, Va., attorneys for the two airmen urged the judges to take a February 2019 decision by a lower federal court that granted a preliminary injunction a step further, and allow them to continue to serve.

If the two airmen — identified only as Richard Roe and Victor Voe — prevail in the appellate court, their case would return to a lower court for a new trial.

“Serving my country has been the greatest honor of my life — one that I am extremely grateful for and proud of. All my fellow service members in this lawsuit and I want is to be able to continue to serve, and to do so without unnecessary restrictions preventing us from giving this country what it deserves — our best,” Voe said in a statement released by the Modern Military Association of America, an advocacy group that is representing him and Roe in court.

Arguing in the government’s behalf, Justice Department attorneys said the regulation is necessary because HIV-positive service members cannot deploy.

The Modern Military Association of America countered that several former top-level Pentagon officials — to include former Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, Army Secretary Eric Fanning, and Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James — have provided statements to the court in support of the two airmen and any other HIV-positive service members who wish to remain in uniform.

The case is Roe and Voe v. Shanahan.