WASHINGTON, DC A new report from the Urban Institute estimates that, by even conservative counts, 65,000 lesbian and gay Americans are serving in the United States Armed Forces, on active duty, in the reserves and the National Guard. The report, Gay Men and Lesbians in the U.S. Military: Estimates from Census 2000 finds that the length of service for gay men is equal to their heterosexual colleagues, while lesbians typically serve longer than their straight counterparts. The Urban Institutes estimates are based on an analysis of year 2000 census data. The data is subjected to a rigorous review by the Institute, a non-partisan economic and social policy research organization. The positive contributions of 65,000 gay and lesbian Americans to our armed services and our national security cannot be ignored, said C. Dixon Osburn, Executive Director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN). The number of “The 65,000 brave men and women serving today could staff the entire crew and aircrews of a dozen aircraft carriers.
The one million before them have made unmistakable and historic differences in the course of our national defense. There is no more appropriate thanks for their service than the repeal of the militarys gay ban.” lesbians and gays in service today is equal to half the total force strength currently serving in Iraq and is more than twice the 30,000 additional troops the Army Chief of Staff says he needs to fight the war on terrorism.
There is no doubt that America needs her lesbian and gay patriots fighting on the front lines. According to the Urban Institute, conservative estimates suggest 36,000 gay men and lesbians are serving on active duty. When the National Guard and reserve are included, the number grows to 65,000. According to the report, lesbians comprise 5% of all female military personnel, while gay men account for 2% of all male military members. The total number of lesbians and gays serving represents 2.8% of the nations military forces. The report also finds that lesbians and gays have served in all military eras in the latter part of the 20th century. The report finds that lesbians have a long history of service in the armed forces.
The Urban Institute reports that nearly one in ten coupled lesbians aged 63-67 report they served in the Korean War, compared to less than one in 100 of other women. And, even in the ten years from 1990 to 2000, service rates among coupled lesbians aged 18-27 are more than three times higher than rates among other women. Lesbians also tend to serve longer than other women, the report says, noting that nearly 82 percent of coupled lesbians report serving more than two years, compared with 74 percent of other women. In 2003, the Institute also reported that approximately 1 million lesbian and gay veterans are living in the United States.
Todays report shows a concentration of those veterans in specific areas. The three states with the largest population of gay and lesbian veterans, according to the report, are California (137,000), Florida (67,000) and Texas (66,000). Among metropolitan areas, Los Angeles (26,599), Washington DC (25,399), San Diego (21,465), Chicago (18,246) and New York (17,057) have the highest populations of gay and lesbian veterans.
The District of Columbia leads all states with a rate of just over ten lesbian or gay veterans per one thousand adults, more than double the national average, the report finds. Per capita rates are also high in Vermont (7.2), Hawaii (6.9), Maine (6.7), and Washington (6.5). Santa Rosa (14.2), Pensacola (12.2), San Francisco (11.3), San Diego (10.3), and Norfolk (8.6) are among the metropolitan areas with the highest per capita rates of gay and lesbian veterans.
Lesbian and gay Americans have always served, are serving today and should be able to do so openly, said Osburn. The 65,000 brave men and women serving today could staff the entire crew and aircrews of a dozen aircraft carriers. The one million before them have made unmistakable and historic differences in the course of our national defense. There is no more appropriate thanks for their service than the repeal of the militarys gay ban. Approximately 10,000 service members have been discharged under Dont Ask, Dont Tell since its passage in 1993. The law prohibits lesbian, gay and bisexual service members from serving openly in the armed forces.
The question is not, as opponents to gays serving openly suggest, whether there should be a ban, said Osburn. The question is how should America support all of our troops with equal dignity, respect, and honor? We cannot continue to treat men and women who have sacrificed for our nation as second class citizens.
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