Center for American Progress

Integrating Sexual Orientation into the Military Equal Opportunity Program
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Integrating Sexual Orientation into the Military Equal Opportunity Program

A clear policy of nondiscrimination based on sexual orientation should be a topic in all future training programs across the services.

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The Department of Defense should follow the example of the British and Canadian armed forces and integrate sexual orientation into its existing nondiscrimination training programs and training manuals to coincide with the policy change. The basis for the sessions should be gender- and sexual-orientation-neutral training based on revised criteria for the Military Equal Opportunity program, or MEO, “a program that formulates, directs, and sustains a comprehensive effort to maximize human potential to ensure fair treatment for military personnel.”

DoD’s policies currently stipulate that “programs or activities conducted by, or that  receive financial assistance from, the Department of Defense shall not unlawfully discriminate against individuals on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, or disability in accordance with guidance issued by DOJ, DHHS, the Department of Labor, and the Small Business Administration.” DoD’s future directives can easily be expanded to include prevention of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation as our British and Canadian colleagues have done.

Moreover, there are many opportunities for these trainings to take place. DoD’s February 2009 directive on diversity management and equal opportunity programs declared that the MEO program must include “periodic, mandatory education and training in human relations and MEO at installation and operational unit commands, during pre-commissioning programs and initial entry training, and throughout  professional military education systems.”

All service members should be required to participate in gender- and sexual-orientation neutral training immediately following the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and these training sessions can be modeled on the servicewide stand down that followed the infamous Tailhook incident in the early 1990s. A clear policy of nondiscrimination based on sexual orientation should be a topic in all future training programs across the services.

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