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Demands for investigation into death of Lesbian service member mount
Demands for investigation into death of Lesbian service member mount
SLDN joins calls by Senators Kennedy, Kerry & Cong. Delahunt

Washington, D.C. - Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) demanded today that Pentagon officials conduct a full and thorough investigation into the death of Specialist Ciara Durkin, a Lesbian service member with the Massachusetts Army National Guard who was found dead from a gunshot wound to the head on September 27. Durkin was serving in Afghanistan at the time. SLDN joined Durkin's family, Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and John Kerry (D-MA) and Congressman William Delahunt (D-MA) in calling for the investigation.

"Specialist Durkin's family deserves to know what happened," said Aubrey Sarvis, the group's executive director. "Though we have no evidence, at the moment, to conclude that this was a hate-motivated crime, numerous questions demand that military leaders must search for the answers. Ciara was, by all accounts, a stellar National Guardsman who loved serving our country. Anything but a full and thorough investigation into her untimely death would be a disservice to her memory."

The Boston Herald reported on Monday that Durkin "was found with a single gunshot wound to her head behind a building at Bagram Airbase on Sept. 27." Prior to her death, Durkin told her family that she had "seen things that she didn't like and she had raised concerns that had annoyed some people," and that family members should demand an official investigation should something happen to her. Durkin was scheduled to return to the United States in January, and planned to marry her partner in her home state of Massachusetts.

Durkin's sister, Fiona Canavan, told the Boston Globe that, while evidence does not clearly point to a hate crime, the family has no evidence to the contrary, either.

"Ciara was a Lesbian, and that's bound to come out," Canavan said. "It is possible that someone over there found that out, and, you know, maybe they were very homophobic."

In a letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Senator Kerry implored that the Department of Defense "deploy your staff on this matter immediately, so that the answers and circumstances around Specialist Durkin's death are uncovered, expeditiously and thoroughly." Congressman Delahunt told reporters that his staff met yesterday with Army officials and Senator Kennedy's office has contacted Army Secretary Pete Geren to express concern about the murder. SLDN said today that it would also weigh in with Secretary Gates and join those calls for an investigation.

"Specialist Durkin was a first-class soldier and her family deserves first-class treatment from military leaders," Sarvis said. "We will not rest until the facts surrounding her death are known and her family is satisfied that they have received all relevant information about the murder."

SLDN has also asked anyone who served with Durkin or who may have information regarding her death to contact the organization at (202) 328-FAIR or by email at legal@sldn.org.

Durkin will be buried on Saturday in her hometown of Quincy, Massachusetts.

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network is a national, non-profit legal services, watchdog and policy organization dedicated to ending discrimination against and harassment of military personnel affected by 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' and related forms of intolerance. For more information, visit www.sldn.org.

A SLDN press release
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