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Lesbians Bear Brunt of Military Discharges

Pentagon statistics obtained by University of California researchers show that lesbians were discharged under the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy at a much higher rate than gay men.

Every military branch dismissed a disproportionate number of women in 2008 under the policy banning openly gay servicemembers. But the discrepancy was particularly marked in the Air Force, where women were a majority of those let go under the policy, even though they made up only 20 percent of personnel.

Across the military, women represented about one-third of the 619 people discharged based on sexual orientation. They account for just 15 percent of servicemembers.

The data was released Thursday by the Palm Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Meanwhile, a Lieutenant Colonel who taught at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs was barred from teaching after she invited three Academy alumni to campus to discuss sexual minorities in the military, the Palm Center reported. The professor, Lt. Col. Edith A. Disler, said that the classroom visit was approved by her course director, but Academy officials pulled her from the classroom anyway, launching an investigation that ended in a formal reprimand based on the subject matter discussed.

"We have always known that women are disproportionately affected by 'don't ask, don't tell,'" said Dr. Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center. "But the Air Force data are particularly troubling and raise questions about why women might be targeted there for persecution under the current policy. Lt. Col. Disler's experience with censorship at the Air Force Academy adds urgency to the need to assess the command climate in the Air Force, as well as to the need to re-examine the costs of 'don't ask, don't tell' more broadly."

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