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ACLU Says Ban on Lesbians and Gay Men Causes Sexual Harassment;
Renews Calls For End to Discriminatory Policy
For IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 27, 1993
WASHINGTON -- Stressing that the military's ban against lesbians and
gay men encourages sexual harassment of military women, the American
Civil Liberties Union today renewed its call for the abolishment of the
The ACLU's national Lesbian and Gay Rights Project joined several
women's groups today in supporting President Clinton's promise to end the
military's discrimination against lesbians and gay men. The organizations
announced their position at a Washington news conference.
Speaking on behalf of the ACLU, Michelle M. Benecke, a former Army
Air Defense Artillery Officer, said that independent studies of military
discharges against women show that during the past 12 years, military
women increasingly have been subjected to "lesbian-baiting," which, she
said, "gains its legitimacy and power through the anti-gay policy."
"Lesbian-baiting," Benecke explained, "is the well-recognized
practice of pressuring or sexually blackmailing women through calling, or
threatening to call them, lesbians."
What often happens, Benecke continued, is that women who rebuff
sexual advances from their colleagues are then rumored to be lesbians.
Once these rumors reach commanding officers, investigations or witchhunts
are started against the woman, often leading to her resignation from the
service. "The most frequent targets of witchhunts are competent,
assertive and athletic women," she said. "And a woman who files
complaints about such harassment often finds that her chain-of-command
either is unresponsive or responds by initiating an investigation against
the woman herself, presuming incorrectly that only lesbians are
"Not surprisingly, many women opt either to accede to sexual demands
or backtrack from the assertiveness that makes them targets of sexual
blackmail rather than inform their chain-of-command," Benecke said.
Benecke concluded by saying that sexual harassment against women in
the military will be significantly reduced once the ban on lesbians and
gay men is lifted.
"The harm done to all women by the continued ban on lesbians and gay
men should, at the least, be recognized as a legitimate reason for ending
this discriminatory policy," she said. "To do otherwise, is to lend our
government's approval to sexual harassment."
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