More gay men and lesbians were discharged from the armed forces last year than in any other year since President Clinton and Congress adopted a policy designed to make it easier for homosexuals to serve in the military, according to a report to be released today.
Despite the four-year-old policy, the Pentagon dismissed 850 gay and lesbian service members in 1996, up from 722 in 1995, 597 in 1994 and 682 in 1993, according to military figures cited in the study by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a Washington, D.C.-based organization providing legal aid to gays in the military.
“The reality of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t pursue’ has been anything but humane as many commanders have continued to ask, pursue and harass suspected gay service members with impunity,” the defense network alleged. “In 1996, the armed forces repeatedly excused violations of current law … in an effort to target and ferret out gay men and women who serve our country.”
The violations included witch hunts, the seizure of personal diaries and threats of imprisonment of service members unless they accused others of being gay, the report said.
The group said it has documented 443 violations in which suspected gay and lesbian service members “were asked, pursued and harassed.”