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Analysis: Sexual assault more likely among gays in military

WASHINGTON (BP)–With a vote pending this week in the House and Senate to reverse the military’s ban on open homosexual service, a leading conservative group released new data Wednesday asserting that closeted homosexuals in the military are three times more likely to commit sexual assaults than are heterosexuals.

The data by the Family Research Council (FRC) is based on the military’s own numbers and it comes as the Senate Armed Services Committee prepares for a vote Thursday on an amendment that would overturn the ban. The full House also might vote on it Thursday.

FRC reviewed all 1,643 reports of sexual assault within the military for fiscal year 2009 (Oct. 1, 2008 through Sept. 30, 2009) and found that 8.2 percent of them were homosexual in nature, mostly male on male. Based on the assumption that 2.7 percent of the military is homosexual — a stat derived from surveys of the general population — FRC estimates that homosexuals are “about three times more likely to commit sexual assaults than heterosexuals are, relative to their numbers.”

“If open homosexuality is permitted in the military, these numbers can only increase,” FRC’s Peter Sprigg said during a conference call with reporters. “The numbers of homosexuals in the military would grow, the threat of discharge for homosexual conduct would be eliminated, and protected class status for homosexuals would make victims hesitant to report assaults and make commanders hesitant to punish them for fear of appearing homophobic.

“Congress,” he added, “should carefully consider these serious risks before taking any action to overturn the current law.”

The Pentagon currently is studying the issue of openly homosexual service and getting feedback from military personnel and their families. It is scheduled t to be finished in December. The proposal before the House and Senate would overturn the 1993 law that bans open homosexual service, but would do so only after the review is complete and if three leaders — President Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Michael Mullen — give the OK. All three are on record as opposing the 1993 law, so their approval is considered a foregone conclusion.

The House and Senate proposals would overturn the ’93 law by amending the defense spending bill.

The amendment may now have the votes to pass the 28-member Senate committee, after Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.) said Wednesday he would vote for it. Democrats hold a 16-12 edge. The vote in the full House is too close to call. The amendment, Nelson said, “bases implementation of the repeal on the Pentagon’s review and a determination by our military leaders.” But Nelson’s logic was criticized by Retired Army Lt. Col. Bob Maginnis, who supports the 1993 law.

“[The amendment] does not include voices of the … four chiefs of the services,” he said, referencing the other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, three of whom have expressed opposition to overturning the ’93 law. “[W]e [also] need to understand what the American volunteer forces are saying on this particular issue, because if we don’t want to have a crisis of retention and recruitment, you better listen to the American military.”

Retired Marine Col. Richard Black said the ban on openly homosexual service makes common, practical sense. He and others say Congress should listen to retired personnel because current members of the military don’t always have the freedom to speak out, partially because the ’93 law is viewed as politically incorrect.

“It’s a question of whether we will force soldiers to bond with homosexuals in the showers and the barracks, knowing that doing so will result in sexual bullying, male rape and forced sodomy,” Black said on the conference call. “There’s a reason we don’t make men and women shower together, and for the same reason we must not force men to shower with homosexuals.”

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, sent a letter Wednesday to congressional leaders, saying “we urge opposition in the strongest possible terms” to the proposal. The letter was sent to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D.-Mich., and Sen. John McCain, R.-Ariz., the ranking Republican, as well as to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D.-Md., and House Minority Leader John Boehner, R.-Ohio.

“The military,” Land wrote, “is a place where individuals are often required to be in intimate contact with each other for extended periods of time. The admission of openly homosexual individuals into the military would engender sexual tension and thereby negatively impact troop morale, unit cohesion, and order…. We are gravely concerned that the repeal of the 1993 law, commonly referred to as ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ will result in the resignation of large numbers of personnel who are currently serving in our all-volunteer services, and that it will be extremely difficult to recruit their replacements.”

If the amendments pass, Land said, then senators and representatives should vote against the overall defense spending bill.

“This is a critical issue not only for the overwhelming majority of Southern Baptists, but also for the future well-being of our military and ultimately our country. Please be advised that we will inform Southern Baptists on how members vote,” Land wrote.
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press. Members of the House and Senate can be reached by calling the switchboard, 202-224-3121. E-mails can be sent at http://bit.ly/arqGfc. Read FRC’s report at http://downloads.frc.org/EF/EF10E118.pdf

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  • Michael Foust