Monday, July 18, 2011

How will the death of DADT affect DOMA?

One of the real remaining issues with allowing open service in the military is, surprisingly, marriage.  The military traditionally takes care of the families of service people.  But the bigotry expressed by DOMA, the so called "defense of marriage act", prevents that.

Great article in the NY Times this weekend lays it out
[W]ith the final repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” in the coming months — and with the recent legalization of same-sex marriage in New York and the possibility of other states’ following suit — many advocates expect the number of gay and lesbian married couples in the military to rise significantly.

As those numbers grow, unequal treatment of same-sex married couples will become a source of resentment and poor morale, advocates for gay troops assert.

...Eileen Lainez, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon, said the department was studying whether smaller benefits, like free legal services, could be extended to same-sex spouses. But she said there would be “no change” in eligibility for major benefits like housing and health care when “don’t ask, don’t tell” goes away.

“The Defense of Marriage Act and the existing definition of ‘dependent’ in some laws prohibit extension of many military benefits to same-sex couples,” she said.

...One currently serving Army officer who married her same-sex partner in Massachusetts said the end of the ban would provide a huge emotional release, allowing her for the first time to talk to her fellow soldiers about her wife and two children.

But she also considers it unfair that her wife will be unable to receive health or dental care on her base, buy life insurance subsidized by the military or shop at the base commissary, grocery store and gas station, where goods are typically cheaper.

Their family, however, will be eligible for base housing because they have dependent children. But same-sex married couples without children will probably not get such housing, experts say.

“I want to be like everyone else,” the officer said. “I don’t think my family should be entitled to anything less than the people I’ve served with here and overseas.”
Imaging what it will mean to be told, as an out gay servicemember, that you can't give your spouse health insurance?

What will it mean in public perception, when the carefully folded flag from the coffin is given to a same-sex spouse?

The racial integration of the military helped drive integration nation-wide. Service members who complete their service go home, after all. (It may have been helped somewhat by the draft, which made sure that serving was widely and democratically experienced. Our professional military is quite distant from most of us now, a separate class.)

 DOMA is and remains a purely cruel and vicious law.  The families of gay servicemembers deserve the same treatment as the families of straight servicemembers. 

Update:more on the inequities here.
Same-sex partners can be listed as the person to be notified in case a service member is killed, injured, or missing, but current regulations prevent anyone other than immediate family — not same-sex spouses — from learning the details of the death. Same-sex spouses also will not be eligible for travel allowances to attend repatriation ceremonies if their military spouses are killed in action.
Can you imagine anything more insulting than not being told how your spouse died?


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