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ACLU Arm Slams Navy’s Policy on Gays : Military: Southland foundation contends that homosexuals are treated more severely than rapists and child molesters.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The ACLU Foundation of Southern California charged Friday that the Navy penalizes homosexual activity by officers and sailors more harshly than it punishes service members found to be engaging in child molestation, rape or incest.

Jon W. Davidson, senior staff counsel for the organization, said that the practice is unfair, and called on the Navy to stop prosecuting gays and lesbians for consensual sexual activity. He said that the foundation is trying to determine whether other services follow similar practices.

Davidson made public a memo written by Navy Capt. Fred R. Becker Jr., legal counsel to the Bureau of Naval Personnel, which concedes that a Navy dentist who pleaded guilty to committing sodomy on his 16-year-old son last year is being kept on duty under a rehabilitation program.

By contrast, he said, there currently are more than half a dozen cases pending of homosexual officers and enlisted men who have been ordered discharged from the Navy simply for declaring that they are gay--without even having been charged with actual homosexual activity.

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The foundation made its complaint in the face of the Defense Department’s new “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on homosexuality in the military, under which gays and lesbians are permitted to remain in the service as long as they keep their sexual orientation secret.

In a memo to Adm. H. C. McKinney, chief of naval personnel, Becker noted that some of the homosexuals whom the Navy has discharged are suing the Pentagon for taking action against them and are likely to use the incident involving the dentist to bolster their cases.

“Our ability to successfully (sic) defend these cases will be severely compromised when counsel discover that we not only (medically) treat molesters that (sic) engage in homosexual conduct . . . but also retain them on active duty for full careers,” Becker wrote.

Navy officials confirmed the contents of the Becker memo on Friday but disputed the ACLU Foundation’s conclusion that the practice is widespread. “This is a unique case,” a senior official told The Times.

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Officials said the dentist was convicted and sentenced initially to prison and eventual discharge but that a final decision is being deferred until the officer and his children can complete counseling and treatment under the Navy’s Family Advocacy Program.

They also said that the dentist no longer is practicing but had been assigned to administrative tasks.

U.S. officials said the case involving the dentist also has prompted the Navy to review its overall policies on the Family Advocacy Program. They said the policy of postponing the imposition of such a sentence was designed to ensure that violators get treatment.

Davidson said the ACLU Foundation, an arm of the American Civil Liberties Union, learned of the case after reading about it in The Washington Blade, a newspaper aimed at homosexuals, last May 27.

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