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Homosexuals and the U.S. Military: Current Issues

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Congressional rept.

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In 1993, new laws and regulations pertaining to homosexuals and U.S. military service came into effect reflecting a compromise in policy. This compromise, colloquially referred to as dont ask, dont tell, holds that the presence in the armed forces of persons who demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability. Service members are not to be asked about nor allowed to discuss their homosexuality. This compromise notwithstanding, the issue has remained politically contentious. Prior to the 1993 compromise, the number of individuals discharged for homosexuality was generally declining. Since that time, the number of discharges for homosexual conduct has generally increased until recently. Constitutional challenges to the former and current military policies regarding homosexuals followed in the wake of the new 1993 laws and regulations. Based on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Bowers v. Hardwick that there is no fundamental right to engage in consensual homosexual sodomy, the courts have uniformly held that the military may discharge a service member for overt homosexual conduct. However, the legal picture was complicated by the Courts 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas which overruled Bowers by declaring unconstitutional a Texas law that prohibited sexual acts between same sex couples. In addition, unsettled legal questions remain as to whether a discharge based solely on a statement that a service member is homosexual transgresses constitutional limits. Meanwhile, efforts to allow individuals of the same sex to marry legally appear unlikely to affect the Department of Defense DoD policy in the near term, since such individuals are barred from serving in the military, although court challenges are possible.

Subject Categories:

  • Sociology and Law
  • Psychology
  • Personnel Management and Labor Relations
  • Military Forces and Organizations

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