As recently as three years ago, gay, lesbian, and bisexual Americans in the armed forces were forced to keep their sexuality a secret or risk being discharged—a risk that would become a certainty if attempting to marry a person of the same sex. Therefore, the idea of extending military spousal benefits to same-sex spouses was inconceivable. Fortunately, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT, Americans have experienced historic progress over the past three years. And just this past summer, the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, which forced the federal government to deny more than 1, federal benefits and protections to legally married same-sex couples that were freely available to different-sex couples. So today, sexual orientation is no longer grounds for dismissal from the military, and the federal government—including the Department of Defense—now recognizes same-sex spouses for the purpose of federal benefits.
Up until that point, gay men and women had been completely banned from serving in the military. Under the new policy, gay people who wanted to join the armed forces would no longer be forced to lie about their sexual orientation, but they were still not permitted to disclose their sexuality. Retired Gen. So the bans were exactly the same. Keith Meinhold, who was discharged from the Navy for admitting his sexual orientation in and subsequently reinstated after successfully challenging his dismissal in court , saw little difference in life in the Navy for gay people between the two policies.
To estimate the number of men in the U. We stratified using hierarchical categories of gay, bisexual, and other MSM to compare proportions in the military and general population. We found that 4. When stratified, we found that 0. The proportion of men who identified as a gay was lower in the military than in the general population.