Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Gays OK in Wartime: The Pentagon Has Long Denied That out Gays Are Allowed to Serve during War, but a Recently Uncovered Army Document Clearly Instructs Commanders Not to Discharge Any Gay Soldier Preparing for Active Duty

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Gays OK in Wartime: The Pentagon Has Long Denied That out Gays Are Allowed to Serve during War, but a Recently Uncovered Army Document Clearly Instructs Commanders Not to Discharge Any Gay Soldier Preparing for Active Duty

Article excerpt

Does the U.S. military enforce its gay ban only during peacetime? It's a long-standing argument made by those critical of the armed services' "don't ask, don't tell" policy, and now a controversial Army document found by researchers in July may finally lend some credence to an accusation that has long been denied by the Pentagon.

The new document is the first evidence of written military regulations that specifically call for retaining openly gay soldiers, says Aaron Belkin, director of the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military. Belkin found the document, part of a 151-page Reserve Component Unit Commander's Handbook, while researching a story on gays in the military for the ABC News program Nightline. While not a classified document, the handbook is for official use only and was extremely difficult to find. "Someone on the inside leaked this to me," Belkin says.

The handbook on how to mobilize and deploy troops specifies that openly gay soldiers requesting to be discharged for "homosexual conduct" cannot be let go if their unit is already preparing for active duty. Under such circumstances, the "discharge is not authorized. Member will enter [active duty] with the unit," the handbook states.

Pentagon officials have repeatedly denied such a policy exists, but the numbers tell a different story. In every conflict since World War II, discharges for gay "conduct" have plummeted when the country is at war only to rise again during peacetime. According to Pentagon figures, 1,241 gay and lesbian soldiers were discharged in 2000, the year before the United States went to war in Afghanistan and, later, Iraq. By 2004 that number had dropped to 653. …

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