Gay Rights in the Military

Sexual harassment is not restricted to members of the opposite sex. For example, when one employee sexually harasses another, both individuals can be of the same sex or they can be of the opposite sex. Same sex harassment and discrimination is, perhaps, most common in situations of homosexual males and females, but it certainly is not restricted to homosexual situations. Again, the difficulty of dealing with such matters becomes apparent when we realize that sexual discrimination based on gender preference, although illegal, is common and even allowed in some situations where, perhaps, it should not be.

The military is involved in this form of sexual harassment as well. Coming back to the issue of women serving in combat, we can acknowledge that the military policy of "Don't ask, don't tell" is a form of sexual harassment and discrimination. (Schmitt, 1999; Friedman, 1993) Individuals who have served in the military with distinction can be discharged dishonorably if they are found to be homosexual males or females. The military policy regarding sexual orientation is as follows: "Sexual orientation will not be a bar to service unless manifested by homosexual conduct.

The military will discharge members who engage in homosexual conduct, which is defined as a homosexual act, a statement that the member is homosexual or bisexual, or a marriage or attempted marriage to someone of the same gender. " — quoted in "The Pentagon's New Policy Guidelines on Homosexuals in the Military", The New York Times (July 20, 1993), p. A14. The policy of "don't ask, don't tell" was introduced by President Bill Clinton in 1993 as a compromise to allow all citizens who desire, regardless of sexual orientation, to serve in the military.

Prior to this measure, the armed forces prohibited homosexual and bisexual individuals from serving. We have already touched upon the various forms of sexual harassment. It does not always involve acts of men towards women or direct sexual situations. Covered by the 1964 Civil Rights Act, sexual harassment includes sexual acts and forms of gender based sexual discrimination. The most classical example of sexual harassment that generally comes to mind when most people think of the idea involves sexual acts from men directed towards women.

This can include touching a woman inappropriately, speaking to a woman inappropriately, making unsavory sexual innuendos and similar situations. Statistics on this type of sexual harassment suggest that it is rampant in the workplace. If the 1964 Civil Rights Act view of sexual harassment is taken into consideration, various forms of discrimination against women also come into play. We will return to this form of sexual harassment in a moment.

Perhaps the most overlooked aspects of sexual harassment when considering the relatively few legal actions taken against it and efforts to combat it is sexual discrimination against homosexual males and females. Laws against sexual harassment are not limited to acts that men commit against women, but also include sexual acts that women commit against men and acts that members of one sexual gender may commit against the same sexual gender. Whether heterosexual, bisexual and homosexual forms of sexual harassment against members of the same or of the opposite sex, all of these actions are covered by sexual harassment laws.

However, when people generally think of sexual harassment, they most often think about unwanted sexual acts by men directed towards women. Although very common, perhaps much more common than it should be, sexual discrimination, especially in income and job position and status, are probably far more common in the workplace than the all too common occurrences of lewd and unsavory sexual acts from men directed towards women. As has been pointed out, the 1964 Civil Rights Act considers sexual harassment and sexual discrimination together under the concept of sexual harassment.

While “harassment” may generally be used to refer to overt and undesired verbal and/or physical sexual acts towards members of the opposite, discrimination based on sex such as failing to provide equal pay with respect to gender for equal work is a form of gender discrimination and considered as sexual harassment. Unfortunately, there are subtle aspects of gender based salary/wage/income discrimination that make it difficult to identify and prevent gender based wage discrimination. For example, most nurses are women and most secretaries are likewise.

Both professions are basically low paying, dead end jobs. At another level, male models make much less money than female models, salary discrimination that is the reverse from that of secretaries and nurses. All three forms of wage based sexual discrimination are common, legal and not likely to be changed. Then there is the military sexual discrimination such as women not being allowed to serve in combat positions even though Russian soldiers during WWII adequately demonstrated that women can serve quite well in combat positions without concern.

(Richard, 2003; Blakenship, 2004) Although both men and women may experience this type of sexual discrimination, one form of discrimination that may be more common to women than to men even though it may be common to all is age discrimination. Older men and women have a more difficult time finding employment, but women may have more problems than men. III. Addressing Sexual Harassment Sexual harassment laws have necessitated that employers address and deal with situations of sexual harassment head on.

It is not uncommon that women fail to address unsavory sexual situations and acts towards them because of the hassle and embarrassment involved. Fortunately, sexual harassment laws have necessitated that employers must address situations of sexual harassment and devise adequate means to deal with them. For example, in the Federal government, government agencies must identify and sexual harassment and tailor means to deal with it without overreacting to allegations or making assumptions about innocence or guilt. Erdreich et al.

(1995) cover a number of aspects as to how sexual harassment has been dealt with and how it can be dealt with. IV. Occurrence of Sexual Harassment The statistics on the frequency of sexual harassment show that it is very common. However, those statistics probably do not reveal the true scope of the problem. We will only touch upon the statistics here. A more detailed look at some of the statistics can be reviewed in Erdreich et al. (1995). A 1994 survey released as a report in 1995 found that 37 percent of all women and 14 percent of all men surveyed had experienced unwanted sexual activity directed towards them.

(Erdreich et al. , 1995)  About 4 percent of the females and 2 percent the males spoke of actual or attempted rape or assault. The report found that sexual harassment is more likely to come from coworkers or other employees, nearly 80 percent, rather than individuals in a supervisory position which ranged from 14 to 28 percent. Although employees under 35 have a greater chance to experience unwanted sexual advances, the majority of those who reported such advances are 35 and older, the largest segment of the workforce in the survey.

Sexual harassment is common and widespread throughout society, but most reported incidences focus on the harassment of women by men and on gay men. Perhaps there are no accurate figures on the true and total scope of occurrence of sexual harassment. V. Dealing with Sexual Harassment Recommendations After results of the MSPB Sexual Harassment survey (see Erdreich et al. , 1995), four basic recommendations were made. One recommendation was that Federal agencies need to find ways to capitalize on what is already known as to the most effective means to prevent or eliminate sexual harassment.

This is considered to be to publicize penalties for sexual harassment and to encourage assertive actions on the part of the individuals who have been the target of unwanted sexual attention. The second recommendation is for managers and supervisors to be consistent and firm in penalizing those who sexually harass in the workplace. The penalty given should be based on the seriousness of the offense. Third, Federal agencies need to diagnose the extent and seriousness of sexual harassment within their organization so as to determine the appropriate solutions and to determine where resources to combat the problem should be concentrated.

Finally, the report suggested that Federal agencies need to evaluate the effectiveness of their training for sexual harassment situations and prevention. This is designed to assure that the problem is properly addressed. Particular attention should be paid in training efforts deal with the problem of sexual harassment by coworkers. VI. Summary and Conclusion Sexual harassment in the workplace is common and must be addressed. It occurs in the Federal government and in the workplace in general. Defining sexual harassment is not a simple and straightforward issue.

Legally, it is considered as a form of discrimination covered by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and includes various forms of undesirable sexual acts directed towards individuals in the workplace as well as various forms of discrimination in the workplace such as wage and/or position discrimination. When sexual harassment occurs, it affects the general environment within the workplace and may have an effect on productivity. Although there are laws in place to combat sexual discrimination, some forms of sexual discrimination are not adequately covered and may actually be condoned by the law.

Sexual discrimination need not be from a man directed towards a woman, but may also be from a woman directed towards a man, from a man directed towards a man or from a woman directed towards a woman. The Federal government has suggested ways to help combat sexual discrimination in the workplace. The problem is widespread, but there is every reason to believe that it can be dealt with appropriately in most situations.


“Gay Rights in the Military; The Pentagon’s New Policy Guidelines on Homosexuals in the Military,” The New York Times, Tuesday, July 20, 1993, p. A14 Adeboyejo, Betsy (2003, May/June 2003).

“Women in the Military Face Increasing Opportunity and Risk. ” Crisis, pp. 7-8. Blakenship, Janie. “Women Change Face of Military. ” VFW, Veterans of Foreign Wars Magazine (March 2004): 12-17. Galileo. 14 March 2004 < http://proquest. umi. com/pqdweb? index=0&sid=1&srchmode=1&vinst=PROD&fmt=4&st… > Civil Rights Act of 1964 – CRA – Title VII – Equal Employment Opportunities – 42 US Code Chapter 21. Erdreich, Ben L. , Beth S. Slavet, Antonio C. Amador, et al. , 1995. Sexual Harassment in the Federal Workplace. Trends, Progress, Continuing Challenges.

A Report to the President and the Congress of the United States by the U. S. Merit Systems Protection Board. Friedman, Thomas L. (1993, July 20). Gay Rights in the Military:  Chiefs Back Clinton on Gay-Troop Plan; President Admits Revised Policy Isn’t Perfect. The New York Times, p. A14. Richard, Diane, (July 2003). “POW Catch-22: Is the Risk of Rape Worth Keeping Women From the Front Line? ” Contemporary Sexuality, p. 7. Riger, Stephanie (1991, May). "Gender Dilemmas in Sexual Harassment Policies and Procedures," American Psychologist, May 1991, 46(5):497-505. Schmitt, Eric, (1999, December 25). Gay Rights Advocates Plan to Press Clinton to Undo Policy of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’. The New York Times, p. A20.