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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
November 24, 2006

Pentagon is rebuked for relabeling gays 'defective'

Washington, D.C.--The Pentagon�s reclassification of gays from �mentally ill� to �defective� has brought a rebuke from a member of Congress and the nation�s leading associations of mental health professionals.

The story began in June of this year when an academic researcher discovered an old, apparently forgotten but still current Department of Defense instruction that classified homosexuality as a mental illness.

The instruction was related to retirement benefits, not the current �don�t ask, don�t tell� policy.

Rep. Marty Meehan, D-Mass., the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association challenged the validity of the language because the Psychiatric Association declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1973.

The Department of Defense revised the instructions last week to include being gay under a listing of �conditions, circumstances and defects,� along with bedwetting, alcoholism, personality disorders, mental retardation, and repeated venereal disease infections.

The three wrote back to the Pentagon, seeking further clarification.

�It is my strong belief that homosexuality is in no way a defect and that there is no scientific reason to include it in such a list,� said Meehan.

The Psychological Association said, �Because homosexuality is not a defect of a developmental nature, but could be construed as one by its inclusion in this section, we respectfully request that it be removed from the section, or that the section be parsed out in a way that is accurate and clear.�

�That the Pentagon would classify homosexuality this way in 2006 may raise questions about its motives or understanding of gay and lesbian service members,� said Aaron Belkin, director of the Michael D. Palm Center. The center, housed at the University of California, Santa Barbara, is the renamed Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military.

Rep. Meehan is the lead sponsor of a bill to repeal the antigay policy known as �don�t ask, don�t tell.� He told the Boston Globe he intends to hold hearings on the bill early in 2007, once Democrats take control of the House. �We will have hearings, and then we can have an honest dialog with members of Congress.�

As the chair of a subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee that is likely to be created in January, he would have the authority to call such hearings.

The chair of the full committee, Ike Skelton, does not support repeal at this time, and more conservative members tend to gravitate to Armed Services. So, even with Democratic control of Congress, the likelihood of passing Meehan�s bill out of committee is low.

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