Officials at the U.S. Military Academy said they had no choice but to reject Katherine Miller's application, because the repeal of the policy barring gays from serving openly in the military is not in effect yet.
A lesbian former cadet who left West Point saying she couldn't live a lie was rejected for re-admission Wednesday because of the lingering military ban on gays and said she is giving up on her dream of graduating from the academy.
Katherine Miller said in a statement that she plans to graduate from Yale University, which she's now attending, and join the military through officer candidate school.
"Although I am deeply saddened that I will not be readmitted to West Point, I understand and respect the decision," said the 21-year-old from Findlay, Ohio.
She said that although she had always wanted to serve alongside her comrades as an equal, "I harbor no resentment toward the military, and I look forward to the day they deem it appropriate for me to put the uniform back on."
Miller left West Point last year and soon became a public face of the effort to repeal the policy known as "don't ask, don't tell," or DADT, which bars gays and lesbians from serving openly. But she missed the storied upstate New York academy and applied as the government moved to repeal.
In announcing Miller's rejection, West Point issued a statement explaining that it couldn't accept Miller because of the still-existing ban but hinting that re-entry wouldn't be a problem for her in the future.
"While at the academy Ms. Miller remained in good standing and had done exceptionally well academically, militarily and physically," said Lt. Col. Sherri Reed, director of public affairs at West Point. "The choice to seek re-admission is available to her once the repeal process is completed."
Still, the decision highlights activists' complaints that the Department of Defense's too-deliberate process is holding things up for gays and lesbians who want to serve.
"For every day the clock ticks, investigations under DADT continue, and service members remain at risk," said the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which offers legal counsel to gay and lesbian military members.
It's supposed to be a done deal 60 days after the president and senior defense advisers certify that the repeal won't hurt troops' ability to fight. It could go into full effect by late summer or early fall, by some estimates.
That's too late for Miller — but not for cadets who want to apply to start classes in 2012 at the four U.S. military academies: West Point; the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn.; the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.; and the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.
Alexander Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United, an organization of gay and lesbian troops and veterans, said openly gay applicants could not be sure the policy would be repealed by the start of classes — for West Point, Aug. 15.
"I just don't envision that first cadre of new cadets going in this year who would think, 'I'm not going to have to live under the cloud of don't ask, don't tell,'" Nicholson said. "I think that will come next year."
Miller has said she enjoyed attending the historic academy looming over the Hudson River. She also thrived there, ranking ninth in her class when she left.
But she said keeping her sexuality a secret violated the academy's honor code and nagged at her conscience. It was difficult for her to remain silent, she said, when her fellow cadets made derogatory comments about gays.
"I couldn't work up the courage to foster an argument against what they were saying for fear of being targeted as a gay myself," Miller told The Associated Press in an interview late last year. "I had to be silent. That's not what I wanted to become."
She filed her resignation in August 2010, just as she was to begin her junior year. She was accepted to Yale but re-applied late last year.
"Don't ask, don't tell" was implemented under President Bill Clinton and requires service members to keep their sexual orientation a secret and their colleagues not to inquire about it.
Clinton had wanted to repeal the ban entirely, but the military and many in Congress argued that doing so would disrupt order in the ranks and threaten morale.
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network recently installed on its website a countdown clock marking the time elapsed since President Barack Obama signed the repeal. Nicholson, its director, said he didn't think there was any ill will behind West Point's decision.
"I think that should be expected from West Point," said Nicholson. "I think their hands are tied."
Training for service members on changes related to the repeal began around March 1 and could be finished by summer's end.
The Air Force Academy indicated that it was operating under the same rules as West Point.
"It remains the policy of the Department of Defense not to ask service members or applicants about their sexual orientation, to treat all members with dignity and respect and to ensure maintenance of good order and discipline," said spokesman Lt. Col. John N. Bryan. "And we will continue to follow the law."