LGBT Military Service Policies in the United States Chapter (Faculty180)

cited authors

  • Goodhart, Andrew; Taylor, Jami K


  • For most of its history, the United States military has generally maintained a policy of exclusion toward Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people serving in uniform. Explicit policies banning consensual homosexual sex – and excluding from service those who engage in it – date to the period between World Wars I and II but de facto efforts at exclusion have existed since the early days of the republic. The justifications for these exclusions have included the view that homosexuality is a psychological disorder, that it undermines military morale and effectiveness, and a fear that LGB people would be vulnerable to foreign espionage. In the 1970s and 1980s, these regulations came under pressure as societal views toward LGB people changed and those discharged under the policy increasingly challenged their treatment in court. In parallel to changes in public and legal opinion, the experience of foreign militaries who allow LGB people to serve also helped shifted the debate. U.S. law began to loosen formal restrictions on LBG people serving in uniform with the passage of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) in 1994, but it still required LGB people to serve in secret. Changing public perceptions of LGB people and problems of implementation have helped galvanize support for repeal. In 2010, President Obama signed legislation repealing DADT and removing all restrictions on LGB people serving in the military. However, military law continues to criminalize sodomy and transgender people do not enjoy the same rights. After an initial loosening of restrictions on transgender people serving in the military during the Obama administration, the Trump administration has revised those rules to enable greater exclusion. The issue is being contested in the courts and appears ripe for further political and legal dispute.


publication date

  • 2020