The repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy has been a very good thing, of course, but it hasn’t ensured real equality for gay servicemembers and their families, in part due to the Defense of Marriage Act. The New York Times spotlights some of the continuing injustices.
Nakisha Hardy spent the first nine months of her marriage on a remote Army base in Afghanistan, a tour of duty punctuated by sporadic mortar blasts and constant e-mails to her spouse back home.
The strains of that separation lingered even after First Lt. Hardy returned to Fort Bragg in September. So she signed up for a military retreat to help soldiers and their husbands and wives cope with the pressures of deployments and relocations.
But less than 24 hours after arriving at the retreat, she and her spouse were told to leave. The military chaplains who organized the program last month said that the couple was making others uncomfortable. They said they had determined that under federal law the program could serve only heterosexual married couples.
Lieutenant Hardy is a lesbian in a same-sex marriage who had hoped that the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2011 would allow her to fully participate in military life. But she and many other gay and bisexual service members say they continue to encounter a raft of rules and regulations barring them from receiving benefits and privileges routinely accorded to heterosexual service members.
Lieutenant Hardy had been assured by the chaplain’s office in the weeks before the retreat that she and her wife were welcome to attend. The chaplains said in hindsight that those assurances were given in error.“I felt hurt, humiliated,” said Lieutenant Hardy, 28. “These were people I had been deployed with. And they were telling me I can go to fight the war on terrorism with them, but I can’t attend a seminar with them to keep my marriage healthy.”
That’s because, despite the repeal of the prohibition on openly gay soldiers, their marriages are still considered to be less important than opposite-sex couples. And they are still discriminated against in many ways:
Gay marriage is now legal in nine states and in Washington, D.C. But because same-sex marriages are not recognized under federal law, the spouses of gay service members are barred from receiving medical and dental insurance and surviving spouse benefits and are not allowed to receive treatment in military medical facilities. Spouses are also barred from receiving military identification cards, which provide access to many community activities and services on base, including movie theaters, day care centers, gyms and commissaries.
Gay service members who are married are not permitted to receive discounted housing that is routinely provided to heterosexual married couples.
This is why DOMA must die, whether by legislative repeal or judicial overturning.