A report issued by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network suggests that anti-lesbian and gay harassment in the military has increased since the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was enacted.
Lawyers for the Network, which advocates on behalf of gay and lesbian clients, received reports of 400 anti-lesbian or gay incidents, up from 182 the year before the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was enacted. The report also argued that lesbian and gay service members who do complain about harassment often are often punished with even greater harassment and/or investigations into their sexual orientation that could cost them their jobs.
In 1998 alone, the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps discharged 1,145 individuals based on their sexual orientation, an increase of 13% from 1997 and nearly double the number discharged in 1993, when the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy went into effect. This policy forbids gay and lesbian service members from disclosing their homosexuality, or engaging in “homosexual acts” including commitment ceremonies.
The recent report argues that many of the past “admissions” of homosexuality have not been voluntary, and have included disclosures made in counseling sessions, in diaries, in online communications, or in direct response to questions about an individual’s sexual orientation. Pentagon spokesman Col. Richard M. Bridges said that he had not yet seen the report and could not comment on it, but stated, “We are not out there searching for homosexuals.”
One of the report’s few positive findings was that general acceptance of lesbian and gay service members may be increasing. A recent survey of troops in Bosnia found that 26% of those interviewed said that gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve in the military, up from 15% in 1993.