Military Continues Recruiting Serious Ex-Felons While Discharging Qualified Gay Service Members

April 21, 2008

An Update from the Servicemember’s Legal Defense Network – April 21, 2008

WASHINGTON, DC – The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee today released data showing a dramatic rise in the number of moral waivers issued to recruits joining the Army and Marine Corps. The number of waivers granted to recruits convicted of manslaughter, rape, kidnapping and making terrorist threats, doubled between 2006 and 2007. During that same time, the Pentagon continued discharging service members under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law banning lesbian, gay and bisexual personnel from serving openly in the military. Pentagon officials released the data following a request for the information from Committee Chairman, Congressman Henry A. Waxman (D-CA).

“This data shines a bright light on the outrageousness and absurdity of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,'” said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN). “On the one hand, the Pentagon is discharging highly-qualified, honest, law-abiding men and women because they are gay, while on the other hand granting waivers to rapists, killers, kidnappers and terrorists. Granting waivers for child molesters and rapists to serve while discharging lesbians and gays is utter madness. Repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ will reduce the need to grant felony waivers.”

In 2006 the Pentagon discharged approximately 700 service members under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” According to the Department of Defense data, in 2007 the Army granted 511 felony waivers, including: three soldiers convicted of manslaughter, one soldier convicted of kidnapping or abduction, seven soldiers convicted of rape, sexual assault, criminal sexual assault, incest or other sex crimes, three soldiers convicted of indecent acts or liberties with a child, and three soldiers convicted of terrorist threats including bomb threats. Moral waivers are granted to personnel who do not otherwise qualify for military service due to a criminal background.

“Keeping ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ on the books hardly helps the military’s personnel crisis. In fact, if Congress got rid of the law there would a need for fewer waivers,” Sarvis said. “It is in our national security interests to get rid of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

To see the Department of Defense data on felony waivers, visit and for more information on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and Congressional legislation to repeal the law, visit