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Key Dates in U. S. Policy on Gay Men and Women in Military Service

March 11, 1778 – Lieutenant Gotthold Frederick Enslin becomes the first documented service member to be dismissed from the U.S. military for homosexuality. Under an order from General George Washington which states "abhorrence and detestation of such infamous crimes," Lt. Enslin is drummed out of the Continental Army after being found guilty of sodomy.

March 1, 1917 – The Articles of War of 1916 are implemented. A revision of the Articles of War of 1806, the new regulations detail statutes governing U.S. military discipline and justice. Under the category Miscellaneous Crimes and Offences, Article 93 states that any person subject to military law who commits "assault with intent to commit sodomy" shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.

1919 – Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt requests an investigation into "vice and depravity" in the sea services. A sting operation is launched in which undercover operatives attempt to seduce sailors suspected of being homosexual. At least 17 sailors are jailed and court-martialed before public outcry prompts the Senate to condemn the operation.

June 4, 1920 – Congress approves modified Articles of War. Article 93 is changed to make the act of sodomy a crime in itself, separate from the offense of assault with intent to commit sodomy.

1921 –The U.S. Army issues standards in which "stigmata of degeneration" such as feminine characteristics and "sexual perversion" can result in a male being declared unfit for service.

1941 – The U. S. Selective Service System includes "homosexual proclivities" as a disqualifying condition for inclusion in the military draft.

1942 - Military psychiatrists warn that "psychopathic personality disorders" make homosexual individuals unfit to fight. The military issues the first formal regulations to list homosexuality as an excludable characteristic. Those in the military identified as homosexuals can be discharged and denied veterans benefits.

January 20, 1950 – Army Regulation 600-443 is published, identifying three categories of homosexuals. Those deemed to be aggressive are placed in Class I and are subjected to general court-martial. Homosexuals considered active but non-aggressive are placed in Class II and can avoid a court-martial by accepting a dishonorable discharge – or resigning, if they are officers. Personnel professing or exhibiting homosexual tendencies without committing a violation of the sodomy statute are designated "Class III," and can be removed from service under general or honorable discharge.

May 31, 1951 – The Uniform Code of Military Conduct is adopted. Article 125 forbids sodomy among all military personnel, defining it as "any person subject to this chapter who engages in unnatural carnal copulation with another person of the same or opposite sex or with an animal is guilty of sodomy. Penetration, however slight, is sufficient to complete the offence." The 1951 Manual for Courts-Martial provides an even more explicit description of acts considered sodomy under military law.

April 27, 1953 – Expressing national security and counterespionage concerns, President Dwight D Eisenhower signs Executive Order 10450 which prohibits Federal employees from being members of a group or organization considered subversive. The order lists "sexual perversion" as a security risk constituting grounds for termination or denial of employment.

1957 – Captain S. H. Crittenden chairs a U. S. Navy Board of Inquiry that issues a report concluding there is "no sound basis for the belief that homosexuals posed a security risk."

November, 1972 - Army Regulation 635-200 establishes policy for discharging enlisted personnel found to be unfit or unsuitable for duty. Homosexual acts are specifically designated as grounds for dismissal. Enforcement, however, is often left to the discretion of commanders.

July 16, 1976 – The U. S. District Court in Washington D.C., upholds the decision of the U. S. Air Force to discharge Technical Sergeant Leonard Matlovich after he admits to being homosexual. Matlovich had challenged the military’s anti-gay policy on constitutional grounds. Matlovich appeals the District Court’s ruling, but would eventually accept an honorable discharge and cash settlement to drop the case against the Air Force.

May, 1980 – A federal district court orders the U. S. Army to reinstate Staff Sergeant Miriam Ben-Shalom, ruling that her discharge four years earlier, on grounds of homosexuality, violated her First Amendment rights. The Army dismisses the order, leading Ben-Shalom to file a motion of contempt. After initial victories, her battle to be reinstated ends in 1990 when the Supreme Court refuses to hear her case, upholding an earlier decision by federal appeals court that ruled in favor of the Army.

January 16, 1981 – The Department of Defense issues Directive 1332.14, stating that "homosexuality is incompatible with military service" and that any service member who has "engaged in, has attempted to engage in, or has solicited another to engage in a homosexual act" will face mandatory discharge. The directive will be reissued with updates in 1982, 1993 and 2008.

December, 1988 – In a report commissioned by the Department of Defense, the Defense Personnel Security Research and Education Center supports the conclusions of the 1957 Crittenden Report that homosexuals pose no significant security risk. Military leaders challenge the veracity of the research used in the analysis.

1992 – During his presidential campaign, Governor Bill Clinton promises that, if elected, he would allow military service by all who otherwise qualify to serve – regardless of sexual orientation.

June 12, 1992 – The Government Accounting Office (GAO) releases a report estimating that the cost associated for replacing service men and women discharged for homosexuality is $28,266 for each enlisted member and $120,772 for each officer. The GAO notes that the estimates do not include investigation, out-processing and court costs.

November 30, 1993 – After failing to overcome opposition to allowing gays to serve openly in the military, President Clinton signs into law the current policy known as "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" into law. Although often referred to as a compromise, the policy defined homosexuality as "an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability." More than 13,000 members of the armed services have been discharged under "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell."

2007 – Senator Barack Obama, campaigning for the presidency, pledges that if elected he will repeal the "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy within 100 days of taking office and allow gay men and women to serve openly in the military.

January 27, 2010 – President Obama announces during his State of the Union address that "this year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are."

March 25, 2010 – The Pentagon announces modified guidelines for the enforcement of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" – providing greater protection from hearsay evidence and accusations based on hidden agendas. Parties providing information about alleged gay service personnel must do so under oath and will be subject to "special scrutiny" to determine their motives.

September 9, 2010 – U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips rules that the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy is unconstitutional because it violates the First and Fifth Amendment rights of homosexuals.

October 12, 2010 – Judge Phillips issues an injunction to stop enforcement of the ban on gays serving openly. The Obama adminstration requests Judge Phillips to stay her ruling, saying it "threatens to disrupt ongoing military operations" during wartime.

November 30, 2010 –  The Department of Defense releases a report concluding that the repeal of the ban on gays in the armed forces would have a minimal negative impact on the military's effectiveness.

December 15, 2010 – The House of Representatives votes to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" by passing bill H.R. 2965.

December 18, 2010 – The Senate votes to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" by passing bill S. 4023.

December 22, 2010 – President Barack Obama signs the repeal into law. The formal repeal will not begin until 60 days after the President, Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify in writing that the military is sufficiently prepared for the change.

June 26, 2013 – U.S. Supreme Court strikes down a portion of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which restricted federal employees in same sex marriages — including military families —  from receiving federal benefits. 

Resources:

Article of War 1912-1920
Army Regulations No. 600-443
Department of Defense Directive 1332.14 1993
Department of Defense Directive 1332.14 2008
Executive Order 10450
The DADT Digital Archive Project
GAO report: Homosexuals in the Military
Defense Force Management: Statistics Related to DOD's Policy on Homosexuality

Shilts, Randy. Conduct Unbecoming: Gays & Lesbians in the U.S. Military. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1993

Wolinsky, Marc and Kenneth Sherrill, eds. Gays and the Military. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993


 
 

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