DADT Is Over, Inequality for Gays and Same-Sex Couples in the Military Isn’t

It’s already clear that the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell hasn’t made the experience of LGBT servicemembers equal overnight. Partners of gay servicemembers still aren’t extended the same benefits as the partners of straight servicemembers, and inequity still contributes to higher levels of PTSD and other health concerns for gay soldiers. The combination of the vestiges of DADT and the continued effects of DOMA means that while same-sex partners and spouses can now be publicly recognized by the military without fear of discharge, gay servicemembers and their partners are still left out in the cold in many regards, which leaves families feeling helpless and alone as their loved ones are making an enormous sacrifice for the country.

And it gets worse: today, the House of Representatives passed a defense spending bill that includes two amendments that will codify even more discrimination by allowing military chaplains to refuse to perform on-base wedding ceremonies for same-sex couples, and prohibiting “adverse personnel actions” against members of the Armed Forces who discriminate against gay servicemembers based on their religious beliefs. The bill also limits the use of Department of Defense property for same-sex marriage ceremonies.

As has been the case with other attempts to legalize anti-gay discrimination, the amendments operate on the premise of religious freedom, arguing that forcing chaplains to treat same-sex couples with respect and dignity would violate their religious practice. According to Republican lawmakers, the rights of gay servicemembers to marry and have their spouses treated equally by the military is just one more step in the Obama administration’s war on religion.

“There’s just concern right now about this administration’s seeming lack of understanding of religious liberty issues, and this is just one symptom of that,” [Ron Crews, a retired military chaplain and executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty] told me. He cited the administration’s contraception coverage policy as another example. Since senior Defense Department officials are political appointees, he added, the legislative efforts are an attempt to “counterbalance” administration policy.

 The White House issued a statement on Wednesday saying that it “strongly objects” to these amendments, turning the religious-freedom rhetoric of the Republican party on its head by pointing out that “Section 537 would obligate DOD to deny Service members, retirees, and their family members access to facilities for religious ceremonies on the basis of sexual orientation, a troublesome and potentially unconstitutional limitation on religious liberty.” This isn’t the first time the White House has been in conflict with the House of Representatives, but this time there doesn’t appear to be a movement to veto the offending piece of legislation. According to the House, the military is now just one more area of American life wherein the feelings of the religious community matter more than legal rights. The next step for the bill is the Senate Armed Forces Committee next week, and “differences between House and Senate versions” of the bill will hopefully be reconciled in conference committee at some later date.

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Rachel is Autostraddle's Managing Editor and the editor who presides over books and news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy."

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14 Comments

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    This is really upsetting. It’s awful to attack queer people in the first place, but to attack queers that are risking their lives to defend your freedom is basically the most heartless thing ever.

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    Something important that also didn’t change after DADT was repealed was the regulations regarding trans people in the military. Right now they can kick someone out for ‘mental health reasons’ if they try to pursue a transition or express plans to. This means that in effect it’s DADT all over again for trans members of service.

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    this pretty much just means I won’t be able to convince some lovely lady out there to marry me for the health benefits. I guess I’ll actually have to work on that “love” thing

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    Okay, as not only a gay woman (though admittedly one still in the closet) but as a woman who has been raised a Catholic all her life and who values reason, I want to point out that the religious right has just as much a right to fight for what they believe in as we do. True hypocrisy would be saying that everyone has the freedom to to fight for their beliefs, but to then turn around and tell an entire group that they are wrong and spiteful and ignorant for doing just that. Believe me, I’m not saying that I don’t want equal rights – remember, I AM gay, I DO want to be treated like a normal person – but I’m saying that if there are going to be equal rights, there have to be equal rights for EVERYONE. It’s frustrating, yeah, but I think that those military chaplains deserve the right to practice their faith, even if that faith is against gay marriage, and that the law can’t interfere with that and tell them they can’t practice their faith- the law can’t tell them that they MUST do something they truly believe is morally wrong. Separation of church and state, remember?

    If we demand respect for ourselves, then we must demand respect for everyone, even the people we don’t agree with.

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      Yeah, as much as I don’t like it I kind of have to agree with you It’s not like civilians can go up to any chaplain either and say, “hey! Do the service for me!” Although I thought military priest were non-dinominational? …marriage as a social and religious thing is messy. Hopefully there is also something equivalent to the going-down-to-the-courthouse-not-religious-shindig though as back-up.

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        I never understood why Americans could get married by a minister ONLY. In other countries you get married before state law, they treat everyone equally and IF you want the church wedding you’ll have to find a priest who agrees with whatever. Whenever I talk to friends from the States who oppose gay marriage and tell them that I never got married before a minister but before a person who’s employed by the state, they seemed to care much less, because they suddenly didn’t feel their religious beliefs were targeted. I’m not saying that it makes their anti-gay thinking any better, but ‘don’t care’ is better than ‘against it’, right?

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    I am an active duty gay officer in the Army and while these new laws really suck, to be frank, these laws don’t make my life all that different for me.

    The repeal of DADT helped a lot. I can talk about my partner at work, I can be honest to my colleagues, and I can stand up against homophobia.

    However, being an active duty soldier just sucks a lot of the time whether you’re straight or not. Unless you’re in the military many people don’t realize the little details that make life so difficult. If you’re not married in the military having a relationship is hard. And, even if you’re married in the military you might get more money, but there is no guarantee you’ll be able to be with your spouse.

    Female gay officers have the most difficult time for a couple of reasons. Most people in the military are men so the gay people around you are men, which isn’t a bad thing, just not the same. Most of the organizations for gay soldiers are almost entirely men. Second, most gay people in the military are enlisted. Officers and enlisted soldiers cannot socialize outside of work. totally innocent. Finally, a lot of army posts are totally isolated.

    I’m happy to have entered the military at this time. Most of my fellow junior officers are not homophobic and if they are its more a product of environment (growing up in a small town) than fostering an active hatred of gay people. I do a lot of education. Still, military life is hard. Yes, life is harder when you’re not protected by the law, but in the end it would still only be a change from difficult to hard.

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