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
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,
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 http://www.gaymilitary.ucsb.edu/)
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
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Britain, repealed its sodomy statute in advance of lifting its ban on lesbian,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.
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.
SENATOR CARL LEVIN
Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee
SR-269, Russell Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington DC 20510
fax: (202) 224-1388
THE HONORABLE DONALD RUMSFELD
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington DC 20301-1000
Comments to Secretary Rumsfeld can also be made online at: http://www.defenselink.mil/faq/comment.html
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