The American army has said that three paratroopers could be discharged from the service after they allegedly took part in sex acts published on a gay pornographic website.

Three of the soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division face court-martial proceedings on charges of sodomy (which is still illegal in the American army), pandering and engaging in sexual acts for payment. The four other soldiers face non-judicial punishments.

The charges do not explicitly mention the name of the website in question. However, a spokesperson confirmed that the charges directly relate to an investigation into pictures posted on the ActiveDuty website. The military-themed Web site did not make any direct reference to the division or Fort Bragg, a sprawling post about 70 miles south of Raleigh.

“As far as we’re concerned, it’s isolated to the unit, and our investigation determined that these seven individuals were the only ones” involved, said 82nd Airborne spokesman Major Thomas Earnhardt.

The charges indicate the soldiers’ behaviour is “a much more serious matter than just their sexual orientation,” said Steve Ralls, a spokesman for Servicemembers Legal Defense Netowrk, a legal group that helps gays and lesbians in the military.

“I’m not going to make excuses for service members who are taking part in sexual conduct for money,” said Steve Ralls of Servicemembers Legal Defence Network, a legal group that helps gays and lesbians in the military.. “It would be absolutely criminal regardless of whether they were heterosexual or gay.”

The three soldiers who face courts-martial are: Richard T. Ashley, Wesley K. Mitten and Kagen B. Mullen. The other four soldiers who received non-judicial penalties were not named but their punishments will include: reduction to the rank of private, 45 days of restriction to the unit area, 45 days of extra duty and forfeiture of a month’s pay.