Lesbian U.S. Soldier Wins New Canada Hearing For Refugee Status

Lesbian U.S. Soldier Wins New Canada Hearing for Refugee Status

By Alexandre Deslongchamps

Nov. 20 (Bloomberg) — A U.S. deserter, who was denied refugee status in February, won a new hearing before Canadas immigration board after a judge ruled the initial decision failed to consider the U.S. Armys treatment of homosexual soldiers.

Bethany Lanae Smith, 21, deserted in September 2007 and sought refugee status in Canada, saying she risked cruel and unusual treatment if she returned because shes gay. Smith says she was harassed and received death threats because of her appearance and because she was seen holding hands with a woman, according to court documents.

In his decision, Judge Yves de Montigny ruled the panel ignored evidence Smith presented on how gays are treated in the Army and its decision was not supported by evidence. He also said the board failed to consider Smiths personal situation.

The applicants claim is not simply that she is a conscientious objector and that she will be punished if she returns, de Montigny wrote. At the heart of the applicants claim is that she is a lesbian member of the U.S. Army, who was harassed and threatened at the same base where a gay member of the Army was beaten to death, and who feels she could not rely on her superiors to secure protection.

The case is Between Bethany Lanae Smith and the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. File No. IMM-677-09. Federal Court of Canada (Ottawa).

To contact the reporters on this story: Alexandre Deslongchamps in Ottawa at adeslongcham@bloomberg.net.

Last Updated: November 20, 2009 14:48 EST