Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S. Military: Estimates from Census 2000

By Gary J. Gates
October 2005

Very little is known about the extent to which gay men and lesbians choose to serve their country through military service. This lack of knowledge contrasts with intense policy debates about the compatibility between homosexuality and service in the United States armed forces. Bayesian inference techniques applied to data from Census 2000 that enumerates characteristics of same-sex “unmarried partners” provide a mechanism for estimating the size of the gay and lesbian population currently serving in the military and exploring historical gay and lesbian military service patterns. Analyses suggest that rates of gay men and lesbians in current military service range from 1.32 to 3.78 percent, implying that at least 30,446 gay men and lesbians and as many as 87,202 are currently in uniform. The findings also show that gay men and, to an ever greater degree, lesbians have served in relatively large portions in all of the major military conflicts of the later 20th century.

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