Friday, July 19

High court revisits gays in the military issue by hearing sodomy case


High court revisits gays in the military issue by hearing sodomy case

The military’s highest court heard arguments Tuesday for a
case which has the potential to strike down the military’s
criminalization of sex between two individuals of the same
gender.

Eric Marcum, a former Air Force technical sergeant, was
convicted of consensual sodomy with another male member of the Air
Force in his home in May 2002.

Marcum is appealing his case in light of the recent U.S. Supreme
Court decision, which determined that laws banning sodomy are
unconstitutional.

Due to the current Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy on
gays in the military, Marcum has been discharged from service.
Under the policy, engaging, or attempting to engage, in homosexual
acts is grounds for dismissal.

“The Department of Defense is committed to treating all
servicemembers with dignity and respect while fairly enforcing
those provisions of the law that mandate the separation of those
who chose to violate the policy,” said Lt. Col. Cynthia
Colin, a spokeswoman for the Department of Defense.

In 1993, Congress decided that because military life is
fundamentally different from civilian life, having members of the
military who are openly gay is detrimental to unit cohesion,
morale, good order, unit readiness and discipline.

“It’s a great policy,” said Jerry Felker, a
first-year computer science graduate student.

If people who are openly gay are allowed in the military, it
will make everyone uncomfortable and create tension, Felker
said.

But some believe the rationale of the policy’s supporters
is still not an excuse to ban openly gay people in the
military.

“It will make men who are uncomfortable with their sexual
identity uncomfortable,” said Ronni Sanlo, director of
UCLA’s LGBT Resource Center.

Since the implementation of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,
more LGBT individuals have been kicked out of service than ever
before, she said.

Since 1993, nearly 10,000 service members have been discharged
on the basis of sexual orientation, according to the Servicemembers
Legal Defense Network.

Kian Boloori, chairman of the Queer Alliance, believes the
current policy is “horrible” because it does not
protect LGBT members of the military and silences who they are.

Because society is still one unit despite its many LGBT members,
he believes the units could function cohesively even with the
inclusion of open LGBT individuals.

The military ban has become an issue at universities and
graduate schools that allow recruitment on campus.

If the schools refuse to allow military recruiters on campus,
they could stand to lose federal funding.

But some argue that if universities allow the recruiters on
campus, the universities’ nondiscrimination policies will be
violated.

In a recent letter sent to the New York Law School Community,
Dean Richard Matasar wrote, “The New York Law School has
decided to suspend enforcement of its anti-discrimination policies
with respect to the military. This decision in no way reflects a
weakening of commitment to principles of non-discrimination.”
He also pledged support to students who wished to protest the
recruitment.

From a self-interest perspective, it makes sense to keep the
recruiters on campus, said Sean Wilson, a first-year law school
student at UCLA. If there was a major budget surplus, however, he
said he would not support any violation of the non-discrimination
policy.

“UCLA can’t reject federal funding” said Jeff
Turk, a third-year law student.

Military recruitment for the Judge Advocate General (JAG)
offices is common on law school campuses, including UCLA.

Coalition forces in Iraq fought with British and Australian
troops, both of which allow openly gay members to serve in the
military.

The issue of gays in the military is a debate worldwide, with
countries such as Russia and Turkey joining the United States in a
ban against openly gay soldiers, and countries such as Israel and
France siding with Britain and Australia.

A study by the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the
Military at UC Santa Barbara found that the United States was
nearly three times more democratic in terms of basic human rights
than other nations that ban openly LGBT people from service.

The center, which follows the mission “to promote the
study of gays, lesbians and other sexual minorities in the armed
forces,” also studied the effects of allowing openly gay
soldiers to serve on the Israeli, British, Australian and Canadian
militaries. The studies concluded that this allowance does not
interfere with military readiness.

“Eliminating the policy on balance now would serve a
greater good and in many respects would foster cohesion,”
said Retired Judge Advocate General for the Navy, Rear Admiral John
D. Huton, in an interview posted on the center’s Web
site.

Huton believes that the public support the military would garner
by ending the policy would help to outweigh the perceived negative
aspects.

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