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The Battles that Remain: Military Service and LGBT Equality

The Battles that Remain: Military Service and LGBT Equality

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Even after the fall of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the Defense of Marriage Act, LGBT service members and veterans continue to face discrimination.
Even after the fall of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the Defense of Marriage Act, LGBT service members and veterans continue to face discrimination.

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Published by: Center for American Progress on Sep 19, 2013
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1Center or American Progress |  The Battles that Remain: Military Service and LGBT Equality
 The Battles that Remain:
Military Service and LGBT Equality
By Katie Miller and Andrew Cray September 20, 2013
 As recenly as hree years ago, gay, lesbian, and bisexual Americans in he armed orces were orced o keep heir sexualiy a secre or risk being discharged—a risk ha would become a cerainy i atemping o marry a person o he same sex. Tereore, he ideao exending miliary spousal benes o same-sex spouses was inconceivable.Forunaely, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and ransgender, or LGB, Americans have expe-rienced hisoric progress over he pas hree years. In 2010, Congress repealed hediscriminaory “Don’ Ask, Don’ ell” policy, or DAD, which prevened gay, lesbian,and bisexual service members rom serving openly and wih honesy. And jus his passummer, he Supreme Cour sruck down Secion 3 o he Deense o Marriage Ac, orDOMA, which orced he ederal governmen o deny more han 1,000 ederal benesand proecions o legally married same-sex couples ha were reely available o dier-en-sex couples.So oday, sexual orienaion is no longer grounds or dismissal rom he miliary, andhe ederal governmen—including he Deparmen o Deense—now recognizessame-sex spouses or he purpose o ederal benes. However, he repeal o DAD andhe Supreme Cour’s decision on DOMA do no mean he end o discriminaion orhe LGB Americans who serve in our naions miliary. I is unclear i gay and lesbian veerans will receive spousal benes i hey do no reside in a sae ha recognizessame-sex marriage; conservaives are atemping o make i easier or service memberso harass gay and lesbian roops by esablishing broad exempions or he religious viewso service members; ransgender Americans are sill prohibied rom serving in any capaciy; and some veerans who were kicked ou or being gay or lesbian are sill gh-ing or a discharge upgrade, which aecs heir abiliy o gain healh care coverage andnd employmen.Te mission or ull equaliy in he miliary is incomplee. Here are oher major issue areas where LGB Americans coninue o ace discriminaion in our naions armed orces.
2Center or American Progress |  The Battles that Remain: Military Service and LGBT Equality
‘Religious liberty’ and sexual orientation discrimination
Te Don’ Ask, Don’ ell Repeal Ac o 2010 was a monumenal piece o legislaion orour miliary and or gay and lesbian service members, bu he bill did no rmly pu anend o discriminaion or LGB members o our miliary. Earlier versions o legislaiono repeal Don’ Ask, Don’ ell no only sruck down he 1993 law bu also called or apolicy o nondiscriminaion on he basis o sexual orienaion in he miliary o replacei;
he bill ha Congress passed and ha Presiden Barack Obama signed ino law included no such language.
As a resul, LGB service members are no a proeced classunder he miliary’s Equal Opporuniy policy, which proecs service members romdiscriminaion, harassmen, and realiaion on he basis o race, color, sex, naional origin,and religion, and creaes a clear pahway or recourse ouside o he chain o command.Insead, LGB service members have been insruced repor harassmen and abuse oheir chain o command or o le a complain wih he inspecor general.
Tis, however,does no rigger he same daa collecion process ha an Equal Opporuniy complain would incie, so hey Deparmen o Deense currenly does no collec any daa onsexual orienaion discriminaion.
 Advocaes’ ailure o secure hese nondiscriminaion proecions by oher means is nohe only problem ha remains aer DAD’s repeal. Opponens o equaliy are also ry-ing o make i easier or service members o harass gay and lesbian roops by esablishing broad exempions or he religious views o service members. Tis year, or example,he House o Represenaives voed o include an amendmen by Rep. John Fleming(R-LA) ino he scal year 2014 Naional Deense Auhorizaion Ac, or NDAA, ha would “accommodae he belies, acions, and speech” o service members excep “incases o miliary necessiy.”
Essenially, service members could no be punished or any discriminaory language or conduc—such as harassing gay service members becausehey view homosexualiy as immoral—as long as hey are acing ou o religious belie.Former Rep. odd Akin (R-MO) inroduced a similar proposal las year, bu only a waered-down version was incorporaed ino he FY 2013 NDAA.
 Unsurprisingly, he Penagon has resised such legislaion, saing ha curren law already grans “reasonable accommodaion” o religious reedom o service members.
 Furhermore, he Whie House poined ou ha he amendmen would acually ie hehands o commanders, who have he ulimae responsibiliy o ensuring good order,discipline, and uni morale and who would be helpless o sop religious bullying underhe amendmen.
Make no misake: Since he successul repeal o “Don’ Ask, Don’ell,” opponens o LGB equaliy have made considerable eors o undermine hemiliarys seady march oward inclusion and respec.
3Center or American Progress |  The Battles that Remain: Military Service and LGBT Equality
Marriage recognition and access to marriage
Unil his summer, he Deense o Marriage Ac prevened he miliary rom exending benes programs o he same-sex spouses o service members and veerans. As a resul,same-sex spouses were denied nearly 100 miliary benes ha were reely available odieren-sex spouses, including healh care, housing allowances, and survivor benes.
 Ten on June 26, 2013, he Supreme Cour sruck down Secion 3 o he law, clearinghe way or he miliary o include same-sex spouses in benes programs or he rsime in our naion’s hisory, and on Sepember 3, 2013, he Deparmen o Deense began exending hese benes.
Service members who were married beore heSupreme Cour ruling will receive enilemens reroacive o June 26, and hose whomarry in he uure may sar drawing benes on he dae o heir marriage, jus likeheir heerosexual counerpars.
 Moreover, gay and lesbian service members will be eligible o receive ederal spousal benes hrough he miliary even i hey are saioned in a sae ha does no recognizeheir marriages. Currenly, only 13 saes and he Disric o Columbia gran he ree-dom o marry o same-sex couples, bu he U.S. miliary has insallaions all across hecounry.
Te miliary has auhorized commanders o gran up o seven days o leave orsaeside couples and 10 days o leave or couples overseas so hey can ravel o a sae in America and legally wed.
Alhough ravelling o a sae wih marriage equaliy imposesa signican nancial expense or miliary amilies—especially or junior enlised mem- bers and hose saioned ouside he coninenal Unied Saes—he miliary’s willing-ness o accommodae he marriage o same-sex couples despie disparae sae laws is asignican sep oward equaliy or all service members.Te siuaion or veerans seeking benes or a same-sex spouse is less clear. In an Augus 2013 leter o Congress, Secreary o Veerans Aairs Eric Shinseki expressedconcerns abou a separae saue governing veerans benes, which legally prevenedhe deparmen rom exending hese benes o he same-sex spouse o a veeran.Less han a week aer ha announcemen, a ederal judge in Caliornia overurned hesaue, which arguably creaed a legal pahway or he Deparmen o Veerans Aairso recognize same-sex spouses. Ten on Sepember 5, 2013, he Deparmen o Jusiceannounced ha i would no longer enorce he law ha resriced veeran spousal ben-es o dieren-sex couples.
 Tough he Deparmen o Veerans Aairs now nds i lawul o exend veerans benes o same-sex spouses, anoher acor complicaes he siuaion. Tough heDeparmen o Deense has decided i will judge he validiy o marriages based on where a couple was married insead o where he miliary member is currenly saioned,i is uncerain wheher or no he Deparmen o Veerans Aairs will do he same. Forexample, i a veeran was married in Maryland, a sae ha recognizes same-sex marriage,

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