Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Why it matters: military families

Although the military is working on repeal of the infamous Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT), let us not forget that it is not repealed yet. There are still servicemembers being threatened with separation over their orientation. The Republicans in Congress are still finding time for needless hearings, trying to derail repeal. And in a day to express support for military families at the White House, gay family members were explicitly excluded.

Over at Pam's House Blend, writer Keori explains in vivid terms what a gay military family suffers, thanks to DADT and DOMA, and why marriage--legal marriage, and recognition thereof--matters.
Because of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act," our families go unrecognized, unprotected, and hidden from necessity. We face the same challenges as straight military couples - the PCS moves every three years, the deployments, reintegration, injuries and PTSD. We also face additional challenges such as acquiring gainful employment and healthcare in each new duty station, moving families at our own expense, and teaching our children to never, ever talk with their friends or teachers about Mommy and Mama, or Daddy and Papa. Sometimes, we are left behind altogether due to a PCS move to an overseas duty station. Our goodbyes are said behind closed doors, in secrecy and silence.

Our families live with little things, seemingly trivial parts of the closet all LGBT people are familiar with. ... When he receives an award or is promoted, no one is there to smile, take pictures, or pin on his new rank, like recognized spouses are. When she reenlists, there is no certificate of appreciation acknowledging our sacrifices as a spouse, and no handshake from her C.O.

It means bigger things, like no commissary benefits, which would cut down on the grocery bill in these tighter economic times. It means we must do whatever it takes to stay employed, because there is no access to Tricare coverage for health care, like a real spouse would have. It means denying our children the healthcare to which they would otherwise be entitled. It means always having a fake second bedroom set up in the house so that if someone from the unit comes over, we're "just roommates."

It means life-altering, heartrending things. It means our partners being sent away to overseas duty stations where we cannot follow. Unlike opposite-sex spouses, we cannot receive command sponsorship to live with our partners on base. They will not receive separation allowance as compensation for being taken away from their mates. It means living through year-long deployments to combat zones with no support, and no knowledge of what the unit is doing. It means sending care packages from PO boxes and signing cards with the name of another person to protect their secret. It means never saying, "I love you" on a Skype call, when they and we need to hear those words the most, and talking in code instead. If something happens to them, we will not know unless their parents call. If something happens to us, they will not be told, or be allowed to come home to be with us, as a spouse would. They will not even be allowed to acknowledge their pain lest it give them away to their chain of command.

It means that we do not exist. ...
I find that heartbreaking. The ultimate proof of Why It Matters.

DADT will be repealed. And then, at some point, the President and Congress will have to face (for example) a young husband of a brave serviceman killed in Afghanistan, and tell him that his sacrifice will not be recognized, because DOMA says that he doesn't exist.

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