Discharged gay cadets may be billed for ROTC aid

November 19, 1992|By Eric Schmitt | Eric Schmitt,New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- The Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps is requiring all ROTC midshipmen to sign a new affidavit saying they can be discharged and forced to pay back their scholarship if they are found to be homosexual.

The military services and service academies have for years required their members to say whether they are homosexual and whether they had ever engaged in homosexual activity. But the new Navy policy seems to reinforce the policy and make it clear that it means to recoup education and training costs if an officer is discharged for homosexuality.

The timing of the new policy has prompted gay and lesbian advocates to accuse the Navy of a vindictive campaign against gay men and lesbians in the military in the waning days of the Bush administration. Bill Clinton has promised to lift the 48-year-old ban on homosexuals in the military after he becomes president on Jan. 20.

"I consider this inquisitorial affidavit a totally unwarranted intrusion in the private lives of American citizens," Rep. Patricia Schroeder, D-Colo., said in a statement.

Ms. Schroeder, a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, sent a letter to Defense Secretary Dick Cheney on Tuesday protesting the affidavits and asking that the Pentagon suspend the requirements. There are 7,109 midshipmen in training programs, according to the Navy. They are commissioned as active-duty and reserve officers.

Gay advocates said the policy represented an increase in efforts to enforce the recoupment policy. It costs an average of $52,967 to train an ROTC midshipman, the Navy said.

A spokeswoman for the Navy, Lt. Cate Mueller, said the affidavit was developed "as an effort to establish a method similar to ones already in use by the Army and the Air Force and to ensure that ROTC students understand Department of Defense policy regarding homosexuality."

An Army and Air Force form has for many years required ROTC students to answer questions about homosexuality. The service academies use the same form.

Question No. 61 on the form, between queries about exposure to tuberculosis and venereal disease, reads: "Have you ever had or do you now have homosexual activity?"

The services have threatened to force students discharged over homosexuality to pay back their scholarships. But legal experts said they believe that none of the services had recouped any money.

One Army ROTC cadet at Washington University in St. Louis, James M. Holobaugh, was discharged in 1990, when the Army learned that he was homosexual. Shortly after the discharge the Army sent him a bill for his $25,000 scholarship.

Mr. Holobaugh enlisted the help of the ACLU, which told the Army that he would serve his military obligation or the Army would forfeit the money. After about six months the Army backed down.

Navy planners proposed the language for the affidavit in February, and the chief of naval operations, Adm. Frank B. Kelso II, approved it in June. ROTC units began requiring all midshipmen to sign it when they returned for the 1992 fall semester.

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