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Pentagon says homosexuality not a mental disorder

Written by: Staff

WASHINGTON, June 28 (Reuters) The Pentagon no longer deems homosexuality a mental disorder, officials said on Wednesday, although the reversal has no impact on U.S. policy prohibiting openly gay people from serving in the military.

After a 1996 Pentagon document placing homosexuality among a list of ''certain mental disorders'' came to light this month, the American Psychiatric Association and a handful of lawmakers asked the Defense Department to change its view.

The Pentagon said in a statement: ''Homosexuality should not have been characterized as a mental disorder in an appendix of a procedural instruction. A clarification will be issued over the next few days.'' ''Notwithstanding its inclusion, we find no practical impact since that appendix simply listed factors that do not constitute a physical disability, and homosexuality of course does not,'' the Pentagon added.

The 1996 Pentagon document, which had been recertified as ''current'' three years ago, had listed homosexuality as a mental disorder alongside mental retardation, impulse control disorders and personality disorders.

The American Psychiatric Association, responsible for a definitive listing of mental health classifications, declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1973.

In fiscal 2005, which ended last Sept. 30, 726 military personnel were discharged under the ''don't ask, don't tell'' policy, the Pentagon said.

Adopted by Congress in 1993, the policy allows homosexuals to serve in the armed forces only if they do not reveal their sexual orientation and abstain from gay sex.

It was a compromise worked out with Congress under President Bill Clinton, who had tried to lift the military's long-standing prohibition on homosexuals.

Those opposed to gays in the military have argued the presence of homosexuals could undermine good discipline and order in the ranks.

RATE OF DISCHARGES SLOWED Changing the classification ''will be consistent with the scientific consensus on homosexuality and mental health,'' said Nathaniel Frank, a researcher at the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

The center recently found and released the 1996 document.

''I'm glad the language has been changed,'' said Steve Ralls, spokesman for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which opposes limits on gays in the military.

Ralls said he believed it was a simple oversight by the Pentagon, not malice, that the document continued to list homosexuality as a mental disorder.

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network said the rate of troops discharged under the ''don't ask, don't tell'' policy had fallen by about 40 percent since the beginning of U.S. military operations following the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

''There is no good reason for keeping the ban in place and there's every good reason for repealing it,'' Ralls said. ''It's discriminatory and robbing the military of talented men and women who want to serve. It's unnecessary. We've seen bans lifted among our closest allies. In Iraq and Afghanistan, Americans are serving alongside openly gay British troops.'' Legislation in the House of Representatives to lift the restrictions on homosexuals in the military appears to have little chance of passage in the Republican-controlled Congress.

There is no similar Senate bill.

Reuters SK VP0132

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