Military backs away from reports of sodomy ban repeal
April 23 2005 12:00 AM ET
The Defense Department has sharply contradicted reports in The New York Times and other media that sodomy would no longer be categorized as a criminal act in the U.S. military.
Defense Department spokesman Lt. Col. Joseph Richard told Advocate/OutQ News that the Pentagon is only recommending that the laws prohibiting consensual sodomy be moved from one section of the Uniform Code of Military Justice to another.
"We have placed it where it belongs, in the Manual [for] Court[s-] Martial. Acts committed under that article are prejudiced to good order and discipline in the military. We have not decriminalized sodomy," he said.
Military courts have suggested that keeping sodomy as a criminal offense in and of itself may not stand up to constitutional scrutiny in the wake of the Supreme Court's Lawrence v. Texas decision, which struck down state laws banning consensual sodomy.
And two years ago a congressional blue-ribbon commission called for the repeal of the military's sodomy statute, saying it was "arbitrary, even vindictive."
But the Pentagon believes that its specific claim that sodomy between service members is detrimental to "good order and discipline" will be enough to keep the ban from being struck down.
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network spokesperson Steve Ralls said, "What the Pentagon is doing is a shell game. The question...is, If they're going to continue criminalizing tomorrow what they are criminalizing today, why did they spend two years studying the issue?" (Steve Newman, Advocate/OutQ News)