glbtq: an encyclopedia of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender & queer culture
social sciences
special features
about glbtq


   member name
   Forgot Your Password?  
Not a Member Yet?  

  Advertising Opportunities
  Permissions & Licensing
  Terms of Service
  Privacy Policy





social sciences

Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

Subjects:  A-E  F-L  M-Z

Military Law: United States  
page: 1  2  

For example, in 1982, the Department of Defense issued Directive 1332.4, which stated, "Homosexuality is incompatible with military service." This directive elaborated on Article 125 and subsequent policies that each branch had implemented during the 1960s and 1970s. Because personnel policies regarding homosexuality were applied unevenly within each branch and across the branches, the Department of Defense had faced a number of court challenges. The courts responded by stipulating that it must create and enforce a consistent policy. The result was a policy that expressly prohibited both homosexuals and homosexual activity in the military.

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

Acivilian law passed by the United States Congress, commonly known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," was the most powerful restraint on gay men and lesbians in the military from its passage in 1993 until its repeal in 2011. When it was passed, it continued the long-standing United States military tradition of prohibiting homosexuality, even as it attempted to appear more tolerant. The reality was that as of 2000, the annual number of gay and lesbian discharges rose to roughly 1200, considerably more than was the case before the adoption of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Sponsor Message.

Even though "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was the law under which most gay men and lesbians were expelled from the military in the years from 1993 until 2011, the military also used Article 125—the law against sodomy--to justify the policies and procedures that banned gay and lesbian service members. Yet as Margot Canaday concluded in her study of the impact of such laws on policies toward homosexuals, "The notion that sodomy statutes somehow support the ban on homosexual personnel in the military is erroneous."

Using three case studies, including the Australian Defense Force, the South African Defense Forces, and the Miami Beach Police Department, she found that these organization successfully lifted bans on homosexual personnel while sodomy laws remained in existence.

Critiques of the Policy

These recent studies suggest that military laws with regard to homosexuality were outdated relics that persisted because they bolstered the anti-gay prejudice that military leaders deemed necessary for the military to operate effectively.

The policies that excluded homosexuals from service in the military have been criticized on a number of grounds. Rather than preserving group cohesion, the policy, critics say, actually promoted divisiveness. Moreover, it proved to be an expensive policy that promoted a hostile working environment, wasted crucial resources on unnecessary investigations, and forced many qualified service members to leave the military, depriving the services of many needed talents.

In spite of the laws and regulations prohibiting homosexual conduct and homosexual personnel, gay men and lesbians continued to serve in the U. S. military, as they always have done, often with distinction. As many scholars and critics of those laws and regulations have argued, the lives of gay and lesbian military personnel and the military itself are likely to be decidedly improved now that the military has abandoned the outmoded policies and committed itself to promote tolerance in its ranks.

Geoffrey W. Bateman

  <previous page   page: 1  2    

Contact Us
Join the Discussion
Related Entries
More Entries by this contributor
A Bibliography on this Topic

Citation Information
More Entries about Social Sciences

   Related Entries
social sciences >> Overview:  Military Culture: European

Attitudes toward gay and lesbian personnel in European militaries vary widely, from the acceptance of the Dutch to the laissez-faire policy of the French to the rejection of the Greek and Turkish forces.

social sciences >> Overview:  Military Culture: United States

The United States military's relation to homosexuality is complex and contradictory, defining itself explicitly in opposition to homosexuality, but nevertheless facilitating the very behavior and identity it seeks to exclude.

social sciences >> ACLU LGBT & AIDS Project

For more than four decades, the ACLU has been at the forefront of litigation and education designed to secure glbtq rights on a variety of fronts.

social sciences >> Ben-Shalom, Miriam

Long active in the glbtq community, Miriam Ben-Shalom was the first gay or lesbian servicemember to be reinstated to her position in the United States military after being discharged for her sexual orientation.

social sciences >> Bowers v. Hardwick / Lawrence v. Texas

Two of the most significant Supreme Court decisions regarding constitutional liberty for glbtq people are Bowers v. Hardwick (1986) and Lawrence v. Texas (2003).

social sciences >> Cammermeyer, Margarethe

The highest-ranking official in the United States military to acknowledge her homosexuality while in the service, Colonel Margarethe Cammermeyer served a number of years in the Washington State National Guard as an open lesbian.

social sciences >> Don't Ask, Don't Tell

The "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, in effect from 1993 until 2011, was a compromise intended to end discrimination against gay men and lesbians in the U. S. military, but it failed to halt discharges based solely on sexual orientation.

social sciences >> Matlovich, Leonard P., Jr.

By challenging the United States Air Force's ban and gay and lesbian service members, Leonard P. Matlovich, Jr. became one of the glbtq community's most visible activists in the 1970s.

social sciences >> Romer v. Evans

Romer v. Evans (1996) marks the first time in its history that the U. S. Supreme Court recognized lesbians and gay men as worthy and deserving of equal rights.


Canaday, Margot. "The Effect of Sodomy Laws on Lifting the Ban on Homosexual Personnel: Three Case Studies." Santa Barbara, Calif.: Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military, 2001.

Evans, Rhonda. "U. S. Military Policies Concerning Homosexuals: Development, Implementation, and Outcomes." Santa Barbara, Calif.: Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military, 2001.

Haggerty, Timothy. "History Repeating Itself: A Historical Overview of Gay Men and Lesbians in the Military before 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.'" Don't Ask, Don't Tell: Debating the Gay Ban in the Military. Aaron Belkin and Geoffrey Bateman, eds. Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2003. 9-50.

Halley, Janet E. Don't: A Reader's Guide to the Military's Anti-Gay Policy. Durham, N. C.: Duke University Press, 1999.

Jacobson, Peter D. "Sexual Orientation and the Military: Some Legal Considerations." Out in Force: Sexual Orientation and the Military. Gregory M. Herek, Jared B. Jobe, and Ralph M. Carney, eds. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996. 39-64.

Osburn, C. Dixon. "A Policy in Desperate Search of a Rationale: The Military's Policy on Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals." University of Missouri-Kansas City Law Review 64 (1995): 203-13.

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. "An Analysis of Sodomy Cases on Appeal." Unpublished study. 2002.


    Citation Information
    Author: Bateman, Geoffrey W.  
    Entry Title: Military Law: United States  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated September 22, 2011  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.  


This Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc. is produced by glbtq, Inc., 1130 West Adams Street, Chicago, IL   60607 glbtq™ and its logo are trademarks of glbtq, Inc.
This site and its contents Copyright © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.
Your use of this site indicates that you accept its Terms of Service.