Revised security clearance guidelines approved by President Bush may create obstacles for lesbians and gay men seeking security-related government jobs. The new guidelines, approved in 2005 but reported by the press just last week, revise Clinton-approved 1997 guidelines to make it easier for the government to reject applicants based on their sexuality. While the 1997 guidelines did not allow sexual orientation to be used as a “disqualifying factor,” the new version states that candidates cannot be rejected “solely on the basis of the sexual orientation of the individual” (emphasis added).
The 1997 guidelines also did not allow candidates to be disqualified on the basis of sexual behavior if “there is no other evidence of questionable judgment, irresponsibility, or emotional instability,” or if it is “not recent.” The new version drops that language, instead only excusing “disqualifying” sexual behavior if it is “strictly private, consensual, and discreet” or “happened so long ago, so infrequently, and under such unusual circumstances that it is unlikely to recur.” The president approved the new guidelines, written by national security advisor Stephen Hadley, at the end of 2005, but there was no public notice accompanying their release.
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), an advocacy group for gays in the military, vowed to monitor implementation of the changes and “combat any assertion that sexual orientation should be a bar to security clearance approval.” SLDN spokesperson Steve Ralls told the Associated Press, “It looks as if lesbian and gay service members especially may face some additional roadblocks to obtaining their security clearances.”