Rights of Gays and Lesbians
Serving In The Armed Forces
Historically, homosexuals have been banned from military service. A report by the Government Accounting Office based on Defense Department data from 1980 to 1990 found that the various service branches discharged around 1,500 people each year due to sexual orientation. The GAO also calculated that it cost the government $27 million to recruit and train replacements for gays discharged in 1990. Between 1980 and 1990, 227 officers and 16,692 enlisted men and women were either resigned or discharged because of their sexual orientation, even though U. S. Department of Defense studies released in 1989 showed that gays and lesbians in the military have the highest performance records on the average of any single subgroup, consistently in the top 5 percent.
In 1993, the Clinton administration created a new policy for homosexuals in the armed services that took effect in October of 1993. The "Don't ask, Don't tell" policy allows gays to serve as long as they are silent about their sexual orientation and do not engage in homosexual acts. Clinton's intention was to make it easier for gays and lesbians to serve in the armed forces. A study done two years later by the Service Members' Legal Defense Network found that the policy did not make life better for gay service persons. Air force discharges for homosexuality were up 30 percent in 1995 over 1994, and discharges for homosexuality for the armed forces overall increased 21 percent.
A navy petty officer, Keith Meinhold, tested the constitutionality of Clinton's redirected policy by declaring his homosexuality on national TV. The navy discharged him immediately. Meinhold sued, won, and was reinstated. The U. S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld Clinton's policy for gays in the military in a case brought by homosexual service members who challenge the legality of the regulations of Clinton's policy.
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