Despite Congress voting to end the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military, another hurdle remains for gays and lesbians serving in the US armed forces.

The US Uniform Code of Military Justice contains a rarely enforced anti-sodomy law which places oral and anal sex as offences alongside bestiality.

In practice, Article 125 of the code bans all forms of non-vaginal sex except masturbation.

“Any person … who engages in unnatural carnal copulation with another person of the same or opposite sex or with an animal is guilty of sodomy,” the Code reads. “Penetration, however slight, is sufficient to complete the offence.”

Unnatural carnal copulation is defined in the article as someone taking into their “mouth or anus the sexual organ of another person or of an animal … or to have carnal copulation in any opening of the body, except the sexual parts, with another person”.

The US Supreme Court ruled all state sodomy laws unconstitutional in 2003.

However, in 2004 the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces ruled that Article 125 could still be deemed constitutional in certain circumstances due to the special nature of the military.

Since then the law has only been used in cases of coercive sex, or where sex has occurred between officers and lower-ranking members of the military.

GLBT rights groups say the law unnecessarily stigmatises gay service members but Republicans now have a majority in the US Congress meaning the law will most likely have to be fought through the courts — which could take years.

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