Security Clearance Denials for Sexual Behavior

Most Americans have been raised to believe that one’s sexual behavior, preferences, and orientation is a very personal and private matter. What someone says or does during their private time is not usually supposed to affect their jobs or careers – to a point. When a person’s sexual behavior crosses the line into criminal territory, then their personal and professional lives can collide.

If you are applying for security clearance, you’re probably aware of the in-depth background check that will be conducted. The background check looks at a number of things, such as drug and alcohol use, criminal behavior, financial behavior, foreign influence, personal conduct, mental illness, allegiance to the United States, and sexual behavior, which is covered under Guideline D of the Adjudicative Process.

According to the U.S. Department of State, “Sexual behavior that involves a criminal offense, indicates a personality or emotional disorder, reflects lack of judgement or discretion, or which may subject the individual to undue influence or coercion, exploitation, or duress can raise questions” about the person’s:

  1. Reliability
  2. Trustworthiness
  3. Ability to protect classified information

“But what about sexual orientation, can that cause an application for security clearance to be denied?” No, an application cannot be denied based on the individual’s sexual orientation – that is not an issue that can be raised or considered during the background check. That said, the following conditions can raise a security concern that may lead to the individual’s disqualification:

  1. Sexual behavior that is illegal; for example, sexual assault, possession of child pornography, indecency with a child, child molestation, rape.
  2. A pattern of high-risk sexual behavior that may reflect a personality disorder or that the individual may be unable to control.
  3. Sexual behavior that causes the person to be vulnerable to some type of duress or exploitation. For example, a sex addict who cannot stop visiting with prostitutes.
  4. Sexual behavior that is public in nature and as a result, lacks in judgement or discretion. For example, having sex in a very public place where children are present.

While the above issues can pose definite security concerns, there are conditions that could mitigate a security concern, such as behavior that occurred while the applicant was a teenager, or an isolated incident that never recurred, or behavior that occurred a very long time ago, and so on. If your previous sexual behavior could raise or has raised a security concern, contact the security clearance attorneys at Claery & Hammond, LLP for professional legal advice.