Pentagon Report: More Gays Forced to Leave Service

January 25, 1999 12:00 am

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ACLU News Wire: 1-25-99 — Pentagon Report: More Gays Forced to Leave Service

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WASHINGTON — Five years after the military instituted its anti-gay “Don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t pursue,” policy on gays in the military, USA Today reports, more people are being discharged for “homosexual conduct” than ever before.

According to statistics released Friday by the Pentagon, 1,145 service members were discharged for so-called homosexual conduct in 1998, up from 997 the previous year.

In 1993, before the policy was changed (and when the armed forced were larger), 682 gays were discharged, according to USA Today.

Signed by President Clinton in November 1993 as a “political compromise” with Congress, the law holds that open lesbians and gay men pose “an unacceptable threat to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability.”

Some gays say they feel disappointed and betrayed by what has happened.

“We had hoped with Clinton coming into office that things would change,” says former Navy lieutenant commander Jill Szymanski, 34, who gave up a 12-year nursing career in August because she was tired of “living a lie” as a lesbian.

The ACLU and others challenged the law, but last September, after a four-year legal battle, a federal appeals court upheld the policy. The court ruled unanimously that courts should give Congress the benefit of every doubt on the Constitutionality of military policy. Under that standard, the court said, “don’t ask, don’t tell” violated neither the First Amendment nor the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution.

“It’s hardly a surprise that more lesbians and gay men are being discharged than ever,” said Matthew Coles, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s national Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. “The Courts have basically said that they are not going to protect lesbians and gay men from discrimination in the military, so it’s open season.”

“As the military discharges more and more lesbians and gay men whom they admit are good soldiers, they complain to Congress that the armed forces can not recruit enough new people to keep up to strength. Even if irony is lost on our military leaders, you would hope necessity might get through,” Coles added.

Szymanski told USA Today that she was constantly harassed and feared that male colleagues whose advances she had rebuffed would report she was gay. “I felt I was always looking behind my back,” Szymanski says. “No matter how impeccable your record is, it doesn’t mean anything when it comes to sexual orientation.”

Source: USA Today

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