Tuesday, September 6, 2011

After winning key victory, gays press for more from military...

With the official end of the U.S. military's ban two weeks away,
gay-rights activists are pressing the Pentagon for more than just the
right to serve openly.

An underground group of gay personnel says it has won permission from
at least two military branches to let it distribute its magazine,
Outserve, on bases.

In addition, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which led a
long fight in Washington to repeal the ban, has written to Defense
Secretary Leon E. Panetta urging him to extend military housing and
other benefits to the same-sex spouses of personnel.

"Provisions in the Defense of Marriage Act and other laws prohibit the
Department of Defense from extending certain benefits, such as housing
and transportation allowances, to same-sex partners," said Pentagon
spokesman George Little.

"But a same-sex partner can be designated a beneficiary, for example,
for life insurance. The department continues to examine benefits to
determine any that may be changed to allow the service member the
discretion to designate persons of their choosing as beneficiaries."

At this point, the military does not plan to recognize same-sex
marriages, citing the act signed into law by President Clinton that
defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

Under the Obama administration, the Justice Department this year
decided not to defend the law against court challenges, but the
Pentagon says it plans to follow the Defense of Marriage Act.

Aubrey Sarvis, director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network,
said in his group's August letter to Mr. Panetta that "we fully
understand" that the Defense of Marriage Act prevents him from
extending all benefits offered to married heterosexuals.

However, Mr. Sarvis identified 11 benefits that he says the law
permits if regulations are changed, including military family housing,
access to commissaries and exchanges, marriage and family counseling,
legal aid and joint duty assignments.

He also is seeking a change in the rules for courts-martial so that
gays cannot be compelled to testify against their spouses, the same
right heterosexual couples have.

Mr. Sarvis also wants the military to issue ID cards to gay spouses so
they may enter military bases without their military spouses as

"An ID would also allow the same-sex spouse to bring dependent
children on base without being accompanied by the service member," he
wrote. "The ability to bring a child to on-base services such as
health care facilities is essential."

On another front, the advocacy group wants the Defense Department to
add the words "sexual orientation" to nondiscrimination rules and to
draft regulations to ensure that homosexuals "will be treated with
respect and dignity."

"Similar commitments to other groups of Americans are reflected in
such documents," Mr. Sarvis wrote. "The same commitments should be
made to gay and lesbian service members."

Meanwhile, Outserve, an underground association of gay service
members, plans a summit in Las Vegas next month to discuss their new
freedom and what they want from the military.

Its director, a closeted Air Force officer, told The Washington Times
that he wants the military to target gays for recruitment as it does
blacks, Hispanics and women, and have military representatives attend
gay pride events.

The Pentagon has said it does not plan to track the number of gays in
the ranks, as it does other minorities.

Outserve said it has won permission from the Air Force and Army to
distribute Outserve magazine at base exchanges. It plans a special
edition on Sept. 20, the day the ban officially ends, with 100
pictures and biographies of Outserve members.

"This marks an incredible time in the history of our military," said
"J.D. Smith," an alias for the group's director. "Gay, lesbian, and
bisexual service members once had to conceal their true identities. By
featuring their pictures and their stories, we are signaling that time
has passed. It is time for these military members to be honored for
their extraordinary commitment and sacrifice in defense of our

Mr. Obama signed a repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" legislation in
December. Since then, the Pentagon has been indoctrinating troops on
how the repeal will work, and Mr. Panetta has certified that open gays
will not harm military readiness.