Military repeals ban on consensual intimacy

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On December 19, the United States Senate voted 84-15 in favor of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), effectively terminating the antiquated “unnatural carnal copulation” ban. It now awaits a presidential signature.

Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) specifically prohibited homosexual sex and essentially compared it to bestiality:

“Any person subject to this chapter who engages in unnatural carnal copulation with another person of the same or opposite sex or with an animal is guilty of sodomy.” (Article 125, UCMJ)

The bill amends Article 125 so that “forcible sodomy” and “bestiality” are criminalized, but consensual sodomy between members of the military is not.

“This is a very stigmatizing and discriminatory provision that by its very nature labels the relationships of all gay and lesbian service-members, including those who are married, violations of military criminal law,” said ACLU representative Ian Thompson, from the Washington Legislative Office. “We see this as an important step forward for fair treatment of all military personnel.”

The ban has been ineffectual since a 2003 Supreme Court decision that found anti-sodomy laws to be unconstitutional. Its remaining presence in the books, however, enforceable or not, remained as a sign of disrespect to LGBT service members.

Following the decision, Senator Carl Levin issued a statement commending the approval.

“Tonight we passed legislation that is good for our national security, and for the men and women who protect us and their families,” said Levin. “The Senate vote is a strong bipartisan statement that, despite our difference, we can come together and accomplish important business for the good of the country.”

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