Ho­mo­sex­u­als push for more from mil­i­tary

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY ROWAN SCAR­BOR­OUGH

With the of­fi­cial end of the U.S. mil­i­tary’s ban a week away, ho­mo­sex­ual-rights ac­tivists are press­ing the Pen­tagon for more than just the right to ser ve openly.

An un­der­ground group of ho­mo­sex­ual 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 ho­mo­sex­u­als 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 ho­mo­sex­ual spouses so they may en­ter mil­i­tary bases with­out their mil­i­tary spouses as es­corts.

“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,”

Outser ve, an un­der­ground as­so­ci­a­tion of ho­mo­sex­ual ser vice mem­bers, plans a sum­mit in Las Ve­gas next month to dis­cuss its new free­dom and what it wants from the mil­i­tary. Its di­rec­tor, a clos­eted Air Force of­fi­cer, told The Washington Times that he wants the mil­i­tary to tar­get ho­mo­sex­u­als for re­cruit­ment as it does blacks, His­pan­ics and women, and have mil­i­tary rep­re­sen­ta­tives at­tend “gay pride” events.

Mr. Sarvis wrote. “The same com­mit­ments should be made to gay and les­bian ser vice mem­bers.”

Mean­while, Out­serve, an un­der­ground as­so­ci­a­tion of ho­mo­sex­ual ser­vice mem­bers, plans a sum­mit in Las Ve­gas next month to dis­cuss its new free­dom and what it wants from the mil­i­tary.

Its di­rec­tor, a clos­eted Air Force of­fi­cer, told The Washington Times that he wants the mil­i­tary to tar­get ho­mo­sex­u­als 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 ho­mo­sex­u­als 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 coun­try.”

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.

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