Friday, December 27, 2013

Obama Signs Defense Bill Repealing Military Sodomy Prohibition

Good news! Even though "Don't Ask Don't Tell" (the federal law banning open homosexuality in the U.S. armed forces) was repealed more than three years ago, the military still prohibited sodomy between servicemembers in the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law earlier this week and it contained multiple gay-related provisions, the most prominent being a repeal of the military's sodomy law.
In 2011, Democratic legislators tried to repeal Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, but the effort was defeated after conservative groups accused them of trying to legalize sexual abuse of animals. This time around, Senate Democrats, including Colorado Senator Mark Udall, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire offered a proposal that would alter the language so as to keep bans on “forcible sodomy” and “bestiality” while decriminalizing consensual sexual activity between gays and lesbians. 

The new proposal met little resistance, even in the Republican-controlled House, and even among legislators who just three years ago opposed allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military.
This is excellent news for LGBT people in the military and another victory in the kulturkampf for the champions of equality. Now there is nowhere in society where gay sex is criminalized, although it is still stigmatized socially.

Interestingly, the other gay-related provisions address another stigma: the criminalization of HIV-positive people.

The Washington Blade's Chris Johnson reports:
Additionally, under Section 572, the legislation directs the Pentagon to submit a report to Congress no later than 180 days after the bill is signed into law on personnel policies regarding service members with HIV or Hepatitis B.  The bill directs the Pentagon to include a description of the policies as well as related retention, deployment and disciplinary actions as well as an assessment of whether these policies are evidence-based and medically accurate.
According to the LGBT military group SPART*A, service members become non-deployable once they’re discovered to have HIV; can’t commission as an officer or warrant officer; can’t fly aircraft or work in any jobs requiring a flight physical; are restricted to stateside duty assignments (with the exception of the Navy); and are not eligible for special schools such as Ranger, Special Forces or other special ops jobs.
Thompson said the provision is welcome because it will examine whether the military’s current HIV policy is appropriate or outdated.
“This review is welcome and overdue because many of our laws, policies, and regulations regarding HIV were written at a time when we knew far less about the routes and risks of HIV transmission, and prior to the development of effective HIV treatment,” [ACLU Legislative Representative Ian] Thompson said.
Legislative action dealing with the stigmatization of HIV and HIV-positive people is something that I think will be more common in the near future. Since the "AIDS panic" days of the 1980s and early 1990s there are some horrendous and draconian laws on the books around the country.

I'm glad to see there is some positive movement towards decriminalizing HIV, since it has a disparate impact on gay men.

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