Several members of the US Congress have sent a letter to US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld asking him to review a recently discovered Pentagon instruction classifying homosexuality as a mental disorder, along with mental retardation, impulse control disorders and personality disorders.

The document, which was found by researchers at the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military (CSSMM) is a Department of Defense instruction that was signed by the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness in 1996 and re-certified as “current” in 2003.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses over thirty years ago, and affirmed that homosexuality “implies no impairment in judgment, stability, reliability, or general social and vocational capabilities.”

Last week, the APA, which authors the DSM-IV-TR, the definitive volume on mental health classification, wrote its own letter to the Pentagon urging it to remove homosexuality from the Instruction and update it to reflect the current consensus of medical professionals. The letter states that the de-classification of homosexuality as a mental disorder is “a position shared by all other major health and mental health organizations based on their own review of the science.” The American Psychological Association followed suit with a similar letter.

Edwin Dorn, the former Under Secretary of Defense who signed the original Instruction, agreed the document might be out of date. “It is certainly time to revisit the issue of whether homosexuality should be considered a mental disorder,” he said this week.

The CSSMM, the research centre that located the misclassification, this week issued a Report Card evaluating the military’s treatment of its gay and lesbian service members. The military earned ‘F’s’ in four out of five categories, including “Mental Health Classification,” “Anti-gay Harassment and Command Climate,” “Evidence-Based Assessment of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell'” and “Family Support,” and it scored a ‘D’ in “Suicide Prevention.”

Dr. Steven Samuels, a social psychologist and professor of leadership who has worked extensively with the military, said it was clear that the misclassification was not scientifically derived and suggested it might be socially or politically motivated. “The very few psychologists who have used this type of abnormal pseudo-classification tend to be motivated by dogma rather than scientific data,” he said. “To classify homosexuality with mental retardation, impulse control, and substance abuse, shows at best an ignorance of basic psychology and at worst a purposeful intolerance and discriminatory practice that is incompatible with the high values of the military.”

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