Military discriminates against heterosexuals, says Air Force colonel charged with sex crimes

Col. Eugene Caughey. © af.mil
US Air Force Colonel Eugene Caughey faces a court-martial for rape, assault and adultery with half a dozen women. But his lawyers argue the charges should be dropped, because the military's law banning extramarital sex discriminates against heterosexuals.

Colonel Caughey was in court for a formal reading of the charges on Monday. He stands accused of raping a woman in late 2014 at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado. He is also charged with indecent filming, dereliction of duty, failure to obey a lawful order and conduct unbecoming an officer.

An attorney defending Caughey told the Air Force judge that the military’s definition of adultery as sex between a man and a woman has not kept pace with its definition of marriage, which now includes same-sex couples.

Under the military’s adultery law, which is a court-martial offense, it requires “sexual intercourse” as an element of guilt, which the Pentagon defines as an act between a man and a woman.

“A homosexual man or woman couldn't commit adultery as defined,” Major Keith Meister argued before Judge Colonel Wes Moore on Monday, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette.

The defense team argued that LGBT people get a pass, and the charges violate the colonel’s rights under the Fourteenth Amendment, which mandates equal protection under the law.

Prosecutors in the case said Caughey has committed adultery several times, photographed his exposed genitals while in uniform, and groped women on two occasions. Major Brian Mason told the judge that LGBT people who break marriage vows can be punished under the 134th article of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which forbids “all disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces.”

“Both of those could be charged under Article 134, regardless whether it's heterosexual or homosexual,” Mason said, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette.

The military argues the adultery law stops troops from stepping out of their marriages, and is crucial to maintaining discipline in the ranks.

There is an ongoing problem with sexual assault in the US military. Despite receiving extensive media coverage in the past several years, it has resulted in no substantive reform by Congress.

A 2012 Pentagon survey found approximately 26,000 women and men were sexually assaulted. Of those, only 3,374 cases were reported, and of those, 484 cases went to trial with only 376 resulting in convictions. Ninety percent of the assault victims were eventually involuntarily discharged.

What is challenging about Caughey’s case is his position. He is a 24-year veteran and was vice commander of Shriever’s 50th Space Wing, the number two post in the unit that controls military communications and navigation satellites.

Under military law, Caughey must be tried by a panel of officers who are equal or senior to him in rank.

The charges against Caughey began last year after an inspector general’s inquiry led to a criminal investigation. Allegations go back as far as 2013, with rape charges from the 2014 incident.

Officials said Tuesday the trial of Col. Eugene Caughey will begin August 8. If convicted on all six counts, he could face up to 12 years behind bars. The two rape counts could bring the colonel life terms.