Consensual sodomy would no longer be a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice under a provision of a compromise defense bill agreed to by the leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services Committee.
The provision modifies Article 125 of the UCMJ so that bestiality and forcible sodomy remain a military criminal offense but consensual sodomy is not.
That distinction is intended to prevent a repeat of a situation two years ago when the Senate first tried to repeal Article 125 in light of the repeal of the military’s ban on open service by gays. Following the Senate vote, a firestorm of criticism was leveled at the defense bill by conservative pro-family groups claiming that Congress was trying to legalize bestiality.
The fate of the defense bill is still uncertain, but Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said he had asked House Republican leaders to schedule a vote on the $632.8 billion measure by the end of the week. If the House passes the bill, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said he hopes the Senate would give final approval to the measure the week of Dec. 16.
Under current law, the maximum punishment for consensual sodomy is a dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances and five years’ confinement.
Maximum punishment for forcible sodomy or for sodomy with a child under age 12 is life imprisonment without the eligibility of parole. Sodomy with a child under the age of 16 but older than 12 is 20 years confinement. These maximum punishments would not change under the defense bill provision.