By Bob Roehr
The Pentagon has acknowledged that a set of regulations listing homosexuality as a 'mental illness' is a mistake and will be corrected. The 88-page set of instructions was issued in November 1996 and recertified as 'current' in 2003.
'Homosexuality should not have been characterized as a mental disorder in an appendix of a procedural instruction. A clarification will be issued over the next few days,' said spokesman Lt. Col. Jeremy Martin in a statement released on June 28.
'Notwithstanding its inclusion, we find no practical impact since that appendix simply listed factors that do not constitute a physical disability, and homosexuality of course does not.'
The American Psychiatric Association stopped listing homosexual orientation as a mental condition in 1973.
Few persons were even aware of the offensive language until it was discovered by researchers at the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military ( CSSMM ) at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Discovery of the regulation prompted nine Democratic members of the House Armed Services Committee to write to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on June 19 requesting that 'any inadvertent outdated language can be updated so that military regulations are consistent across the board.'
The broader antigay military policy known as 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' remains a matter of growing contention.
When asked about it at a news conference on June 29, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said the policy is 'well-established,' and deferred further questions to the Pentagon.
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network executive director C. Dixon Osburn said this is the first time the administration has commented on the policy since taking office in 2001.
The Pentagon says the policy is a matter of law and that changes in the law must come from Congress, while leaders in Congress such as Senator John McCain say 'military leaders support the ban,' and that change will come only when the brass ask for it.
Osburn called this 'a Keystone Kops approach to leadership. Our men and women in uniform deserve better.' He argues that the military needs soldiers and thousands of gays and lesbians are willing to serve openly. They should be allowed to do so.
Meanwhile, in London, the Royal Navy allowed its personnel to march in gay pride celebrations in full uniform. It is believed to be the first time that soldiers or seamen of any armed forces have been encouraged to do so by the head of that service.