Last edited: February 14, 2005

One Year After Panel Recommends Repeal of Military Sodomy Statute, Pentagon & Congress Fail to Take Action

New Report Confirms Panelís Finding That Statute is ĎArbitrary, Even Vindictiveí

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), June 3, 2002

One year after a panel convened by Judge Walter T. Cox III recommended repeal of the militaryís sodomy statute, Department of Defense and Congressional representatives have taken no action to address the panelís concerns or recommendations.

The panel, convened last year to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), was the first comprehensive review of the UCMJ since its implementation. In their ensuing report, panelists called sodomy prosecutions "arbitrary, even vindictive," and recommended replacing the statute with one governing sexual abuse similar to laws adopted by many states, and in Title 18 of the United States Code. Those recommendations were forwarded to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, for review.

One year later, no action has been taken by the Pentagon or Congress to address the concerns. When contacted by Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) and the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military (CSSMMó at the University of California-Santa Barbara, neither would provide comment on the status of their review of the report.

"Our service members deserve the best military justice system in the world," said C. Dixon Osburn, Executive Director of SLDN. "Antiquated laws do not further military readiness." SLDN testified in favor of repealing the statute during the Commissionís hearings.

A joint report issued today by SLDN and CSSMM clearly shows that the Cox Commissionís findings were valid and that Congress and the Pentagon should take swift action to repeal the sodomy statute.

The report finds that sodomy charges are often used in conjunction with assault cases, where a statute similar to that proposed by the commission would be more appropriate. "The report," said Osburn, "is further evidence that repealing the militaryís antiquated sodomy statute is long overdue."

Aaron Belkin, Director of CSSMM, noted that new studies show there are already a number of precedents for repealing sodomy statutes in advance of lifting a militaryís gay ban. Americaís closest military ally, Great Britain, repealed its sodomy statute in advance of lifting its ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual service members. "Evidence and history show," Belkin said, "that military preparedness remains the same, or is even enhanced by, repealing laws that do not support military personnel."

Others who have studied Great Britainís experiences in dealing with the issue agree. "Even if a military gay ban is in place, it is still possible to lift a sodomy ban," said Christopher Dandeker, Former Chair of the Department of War Studies at Kings College in London, "as long as doing so is consistent with civilian law, and as long as it takes place between consenting adults and in an environment where trust and cohesion between military service members is not impacted."

SLDN urged Secretary Rumsfeld and Senator Levin to take swift action to review and implement the Cox Commissionís recommendations. "The militaryís sodomy law is antiquated, discriminatory and should be repealed," said Osburn.

The Cox Commission was 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, included 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.

Action Alert!

Write or email Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and Senator Levin, urging them to review and adopt the Cox Commissionís recommendations regarding the militaryís sodomy statute.

Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee
SR-269, Russell Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington DC 20510
fax: (202) 224-1388

Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington DC 20301-1000
Comments to Secretary Rumsfeld can also be made online at:

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