June 28, 2006

Pentagon says homosexuality not a mental disorder

By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon no longer deems
homosexuality a mental disorder, officials said on Wednesday,
although the reversal has no impact on U.S. policy prohibiting
openly gay people from serving in the military.

After a 1996 Pentagon document placing homosexuality among
a list of "certain mental disorders" came to light this month,
the American Psychiatric Association and a handful of lawmakers
asked the Defense Department to change its view.

The Pentagon said in a statement: "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."

"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 Pentagon added.

The 1996 Pentagon document, which had been recertified as
"current" three years ago, had listed homosexuality as a mental
disorder alongside mental retardation, impulse control
disorders and personality disorders.

The American Psychiatric Association, responsible for a
definitive listing of mental health classifications,
declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1973.

In fiscal 2005, which ended last September 30, 726 military
personnel were discharged under the "don't ask, don't tell"
policy, the Pentagon said.

Adopted by Congress in 1993, the policy allows homosexuals
to serve in the armed forces only if they do not reveal their
sexual orientation and abstain from gay sex.

It was a compromise worked out with Congress under
President Bill Clinton, who had tried to lift the military's
long-standing prohibition on homosexuals.

Those opposed to gays in the military have argued the
presence of homosexuals could undermine good discipline and
order in the ranks.


Changing the classification "will be consistent with the
scientific consensus on homosexuality and mental health," said
Nathaniel Frank, a researcher at the Center for the Study of
Sexual Minorities in the Military at the University of
California at Santa Barbara.

The center recently found and released the 1996 document.

"I'm glad the language has been changed," said Steve Ralls,
spokesman for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which
opposes limits on gays in the military.

Ralls said he believed it was a simple oversight by the
Pentagon, not malice, that the document continued to list
homosexuality as a mental disorder.

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network said the rate of
troops discharged under the "don't ask, don't tell" policy had
fallen by about 40 percent since the beginning of U.S. military
operations following the September 11 attacks on the United

"There is no good reason for keeping the ban in place and
there's every good reason for repealing it," Ralls said. "It's
discriminatory and robbing the military of talented men and
women who want to serve. It's unnecessary. We've seen bans
lifted among our closest allies. In Iraq and Afghanistan,
Americans are serving alongside openly gay British troops."

Legislation in the House of Representatives to lift the
restrictions on homosexuals in the military appears to have
little chance of passage in the Republican-controlled Congress.
There is no similar Senate bill.