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Report Says Anti-Gay Harassment Down, Commends Army Training

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 16, 2001 – A Service Members Legal Defense Network report released March 15 says anti-gay harassment in the military has decreased and commends the Army's homosexual policy training program.

Harassment "in any way, shape or form," including that directed against alleged homosexuals, is not tolerated within the armed forces, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. Craig Quigley said at a news briefing here.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld "is very much against a climate of harassment," Quigley told reporters, noting that DoD has declared such behavior prejudicial to the good order, discipline and morale of its service members. Each of the services has issued clear policy statements against harassment, he said, and DoD is considering issuing a DoD- wide directive reemphasizing the policy.

Quigley's comments followed the release of the Service Members Legal Defense Network report on the military's implementation of its "Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Pursue, Don't Harass" policy. The report credits DoD with taking "aggressive initial steps to combat anti-gay harassment although they have yet to be fully implemented."

Anti-gay harassment persists in spite of the law and service members who "come out" do so to escape unchecked harassment, according to the report. Others, it says, come out because core values require honesty and integrity.

The report also says health care providers continue to turn in gay service members. Service members still fear reprisal when reporting anti-gay harassment. Military officials rarely hold anyone accountable for asking, pursuing or harassing, according to the report.

The Army, the report said, has taken the lead in training troops on the policy's investigative limits, but the other services have not gone as far. The report accuses the Air Force of conducting "hunting expeditions" designed to "out" gays and says there have been increased harassment incidents in the Navy.

The report also acknowledges that in response to an April 1998 Pentagon review of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, then Defense Secretary William S. Cohen ordered the military to limit investigations and protect privacy.

DoD also issued guidelines for investigating threats or harassment against service members based on alleged homosexuality, Pentagon officials said.

The DoD review recommended that defense leaders reissue a March 1997 policy letter stating that harassment because of perceived sexual orientation will not be tolerated and that commanders "hold fully accountable" anyone engaged in threatening conduct. The letter was reissued in 1999 to reemphasize the policy and remains in effect today, DoD officials noted.

Pentagon officials are currently consolidating the number of discharges for violations of the policy and say the numbers should be available within the next few weeks.

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