Gays Influence Pentagon Policies, Opponents Charge

Article excerpt

Homosexual groups are increasing their access to Pentagon officials, leading to policy changes that benefit the gay-rights movement, conservative groups charge.

The conservatives say the Pentagon shuts them out during policy reviews of sexual-misconduct regulations, while holding private meetings and conversations with homosexual organizations.

"The Pentagon is catering to homosexual groups that bankrolled the Clinton campaigns so heavily," said Elaine Donnelly, director of the Livonia, Mich.-based Center for Military Readiness. "They do it routinely. It doesn't even occur to them there might be another side to this issue. The conservatives aren't even on the radar screen of the Pentagon."

But C. Dixon Osburn, co-director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, called the charges "bunk."

"If we had an `in' in the Pentagon, we wouldn't have three to four service members kicked out every day for being gay," said Mr. Osburn, whose group aids people targeted under the military's homosexual ban. "It's the highest rate of discharges in a decade."

Mr. Osburn said he has submitted his annual report on discharges of homosexuals to the Pentagon, which then began a review of its homosexual ban, knownas "don't ask, don't tell."

Mr. Osburn said he and a representative from the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest homosexual lobby, met with Rudy de Leon, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, who has authority to revise policies on homosexuals. Mr. Osburn said he could not recall how many times he has spoken to Mr. de Leon.

Conservatives raised the access issue after President Clinton two weeks ago amended the military's manual for courts-martial. The new language states that judges and juries in the sentencing phase of a trial may consider whether the defendant was motivated by hate toward a particular group. The categories of hate crimes include sexual orientation.

The Defense Department issued a statement to The Washington Times saying it recommended changes in the manual based on instructions from Congress.

Said the department, "The change was originally prompted by the comments of the House [Armed Services Committee] in their report on the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1997. …