WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate on Thursday passed the National Defense Authorization Act, which included a three-sentence instruction on page 147 of the 665-page bill, which would repeal Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), which currently prohibits troops from engaging in consensual sodomy.
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and other LGBT advocacy groups had lobbied for Article 125’s repeal during hearings on the Act by the Senate Armed Services Committee, intensifying their collective efforts after the final passage of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal last September.
Activists have campaigned for the provision to be removed from the UCMJ for several years, arguing that the 2003 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas that struck down sodomy laws should be held as a reference point for the military.
Reaction from right wing conservatives, particularly the anti-gay family values groups, immediately likened the repeal of the article as giving service members license to have sex with animals.
On the ultra conservative media blog, CNSNews.com, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said the effort to remove sodomy from military law stems from liberal Senate Democrats as well as the President’s support for the real of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
“It’s all about using the military to advance this administration’s radical social agenda,” Perkins told CNSNews.com. “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.”
“Well, whether it was inadvertent or not, they have also taken out the provision against bestiality,” he said. “So now, under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), there’s nothing there to prosecute bestiality.”
Perkins was referring to the current wording of Article 125 of the UCMJ which states:
[…] “(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.”
Former Army Col. Bob Maginnis told the website that according to some military lawyers, bestiality may be prosecutable under another section of the military code of justice – the “catch-all” Article 134 for offenses against “good military order and discipline.”
But don’t count on that, he said.
“Soldiers, unfortunately, like it or not, have engaged in this type of behavior in the past. Will they in the future, if they remove this statute? I don’t know,” Maginnis said.
The House version of the bill does not contain the Article 125 repeal provision, which must be reconciled in the joint committee of both chambers before the bill goes to the President for his signature.