An estimated 65,000 gay men and lesbians are serving in the U.S. armed forces on active duty, in the reserves, or in the National Guard, according to a study released Wednesday by the Urban Institute. The report also found that gay men serve in the military for the same length of time as their straight colleagues. Lesbians typically serve for longer than their straight counterparts. The institute culled its data from the 2000 Census.
"The positive contributions of 65,000 gay and lesbian Americans to our armed services and our national security cannot be ignored," said C. Dixon Osburn, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. "The number of lesbians and gays in service today is equal to half the total force strength currently serving in Iraq and is more than twice the 30,000 additional troops the Army chief of staff says he needs to fight the war on terrorism. There is no doubt that America needs her lesbian and gay patriots fighting on the front lines."
According to the Urban Institute, conservative estimates suggest that 36,000 gay men and lesbians are serving on active duty. When the National Guard and reserves are included, the number grows to 65,000. According to the report, lesbians make up 5% of all female military personnel, while gay men account for 2% of all male military members. The total number of lesbians and gays serving represents 2.8% of the nation's military forces. The report also finds that lesbians and gays have served in all military eras in the latter part of the 20th century.
In 2003, the Urban Institute also reported that approximately 1 million lesbian and gay veterans are living in the United States. Wednesday's report shows a concentration of those veterans in specific areas. The three states with the largest population of gay and lesbian veterans are California (137,000), Florida (67,000), and Texas (66,000). Among metropolitan areas, Los Angeles (26,599), Washington, D.C. (25,399), San Diego (21,465), Chicago (18,246), and New York (17,057) have the highest populations of gay and lesbian veterans.