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08 December 2011

Praise: Stars and Stripes on UCMJ Reform

Since the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT), there has been concern because the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) continued to prohibit sodomy.  The word sodomy is italicized because the definition is quite broad and inconsistent.  

Originally, Christians called homosexuality the sin of Sodom, in reference to the destruction of that city in the book of Genesis.  The actual sin of Sodom is a failure of hospitality.  Compare the treatment of the three strangers by Abraham in Genesis 18 to the treatment by Lot's neighbors in Sodom in Genesis 19.  Sexuality is a side issue, not the greater sin.

The UCMJ uses sodomy to mean any homosexual relations or any sexual relations with animals.

925. ART. 125. SODOMY

(a) Any person subject to this chapter who engages in unnatural carnal copulation with another person of the same or opposite sex or with an animal is guilty of sodomy. Penetration , however slight, is sufficient to complete the offense.
(b) Any person found guilty of sodomy shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.
unnatural carnal copulation is usually meant as anal sex.

So, with lesbians and gays being allow to serve in the United States military, the prohibition of homosexual activity seems out of place.  But, the article is the same one that prohibits bestiality.  So groups opposed to the repeal of DADT and opposed to equality have been complaining that Article 125 needs to stay in place, at least for the sake of the animals.  Here are a few examples.

CNS News quoted Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council
“It’s all about using the military to advance this administration’s radical social agenda,” Perkins told “Not only did they overturn Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, but they had another problem, and that is, under military law sodomy is illegal, just as adultery is illegal, so they had to remove that prohibition against sodomy.”
Perkins said removing the bestiality provision may have been intentional--or just “collateral damage”
As reported by MediaITE, Les Kinsolving, a World Net Daily reporter, tried to ask Jay Carney, the White House Press Secretary, about the repeal of prohibition of bestiality.
Kinsolving then asked Carney about the recent repeal of the UCMJ provision that bans sodomy, but which also included a ban on bestiality. There are a lot of interesting ways to approach this question. Article 125 of the UCMJ didn’t ban sodomy and bestiality, it said they were the same thing. While Article 134 does contain language specific to animal abuse, that section refers only to “public animals,” and carries a much lower penalty. There’s a legitimate question as to whether additional protections for animals are needed in the UCMJ, and whether those are in the works.
Les didn’t tackle the thing from any of those angles, though, instead asking Carney, “Does the Commander-in-Chief approve or disapprove of beastiality in our armed forces?”
Carney said, “Let’s get to something more serious,” and called on ABC News’ Jake Tapper.
The same article refers to a letter from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
In their letter to Carney, PETA said, “we were upset to note that you flippantly addressed the recently approved repeal of the military ban on bestiality. With respect, this is no laughing matter,” and concluded with, “I hope that in the future, you will address important issues with sensitivity and not dismiss them with a joke.”
The good news comes in an excellent article in today's Stars and Stripes.
WASHINGTON — Just in case you weren’t sure, bestiality is still illegal in the U.S. military.
After citing the controversy, the article includes
For their part, Pentagon officials say the deletion of bestiality is a legal technicality and does not represent any fundamental change in the military’s moral code for servicemembers (and service animals).
“The department’s position on this issue remains unchanged and that act remains illegal,” said defense spokesman Lt. Col Todd Breasseale.
The end of the Stars and Stripes article:
Breasseale said the whole controversy is off-base.
Even if Article 125 is removed, the UCMJ contains provisions under which troops can be punished. Article 134, for example, forbids “all disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces” and “all conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces.” Breasseale said that would cover any and all animal abuse.
In fact, past instances of bestiality in the military have been prosecuted under that statute, instead of Article 125. The legal record dates back to 1957, when Pvt. Ricardo Sanchez was convicted of “an indecent act with an animal” under Article 134, even without specific wording prohibiting sex with animals.
In addition, before the potential language changes reached Congress, the Joint Service Committee on Military Justice drafted a list of punitive offenses under the UCMJ which specifically includes animal abuse. That is set to be included in the Manual for Courts-Martial, and will give clear guidance on what to do in such cases.
Breasseale said the change pending before Congress is truly just a legal clean-up effort, and will in no way endanger animals.
“It is difficult to envision a situation where a servicemember engages in sexual conduct with an animal that would not be conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline or service-discrediting,” he said.
Many thanks to the Stars and Stripes for setting the record straight.

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