Last edited: February 22, 2005

Military Legal Aid Group Urges Repeal of Sodomy Statute

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, March 23, 2001

For Immediate Release
Contact: Steve Ralls
(202) 328-3244, ext.116

Cox Commission to Announce Final Recommendations Regarding Uniform Code of Military Justice This Summer

Washington, DC—Noting that it "undermines good order, discipline and morale in our armed services," Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) urged a commissioned chaired by Judge Walter T. Cox III to recommend repeal of Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, decriminalizing sodomy between consenting adults. The Commission, which held public hearings on March 13th in observance of the UCMJ’s fiftieth anniversary, will make its final recommendations to the White House and Congress in late May or early June.

Speaking on behalf of SLDN, Sharra Greer, a staff attorney with the legal aid and watchdog group, testified before the committee that "military commanders should not devote scarce military resources to policing the bedrooms of those who defend our country." Greer also noted that repeal of the military’s sodomy statute "in no way impedes our military from punishing other sexual misconduct, including assault, harassment or rape."

The statute, known as Article 125, prohibits both same gender and opposite gender oral and anal sex, regardless of whether activity is private, between consensual adults or even between husband and wife. The penalties under Article 125 are severe, punishable by dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances and confinement for five years. Greer noted in her testimony that "punishment for sodomy is more severe than the punishment for negligent homocide, extortion, assault upon a child and aggravated assault with means other than a loaded firearm."

SLDN informed the Cox Commission that the sodomy statute is selectively enforced and unfairly targets lesbian, gay and bisexual service members. "It is too easy for a jilted lover or an angry roommate to bring allegations of sodomy and end the career of a service member for engaging in consensual sexual activity," Greer said. "Article 125 becomes the Damocles sword hanging over every service member’s head if they cross someone."

"Article 125 is a throwback to English common law that has long since been abandoned by the militaries of the original NATO countries, including Great Britain, on whose law ours relies," said Greer. "SLDN’s experience in matters of military justice leads us to conclude that the Cox Commission should recommend to Congress the repeal of Article 125."

The Commission is sponsored by the National Institute of Military Justice in coordination with The George Washington University Law School. The members of the commission, in addition to Judge Cox, are Rear Admiral John S. Jenkins, JAGC, USN (Ret.), Senior Associate Dean at The George Washington University Law School; Professor Mary M. Cheh, also of The George Washington University Law School; Captain Guy R. Abbate, Jr., JAGC, USN (Ret.), senior instructor at the Naval Justice School; and Lieutenant Colonel Frank J. Spinner, USAF (Ret.), a private practitioner of military law.

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SLDN is an independent national legal aid and watchdog organization that assists men and women in the military who face witch hunts, death threats, harassment and discharge under "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue, Don’t Harass."

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