Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) blasted a proposed Pentagon policy aimed at giving same-sex couples the time to travel to states where they can legally marry on Thursday. Inhofe, who takes great pride in having no LGBT relatives, wrote to Sec. of Defense Chuck Hagel that doing so would amount to “special uncharged leave benefits” for same-sex partners.
Following the Supreme Court’s June ruling striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the Department of Defense has been working to update its systems to ensure it treats same-sex marriages equally, as required by the ruling. Since just 13 states and the District of Columbia have statewide marriage equality, the military is reportedly considering granting a few days of uncharged leave to soldiers and sailors who need to travel to a state where they can legally marry.
Inhofe, the ranking minority-party member of Senate Armed Services Committee, objects to the idea, suggesting it is an illegal benefit and that it would amount to discrimination not to offer the same amount of leave to those entering into opposite-sex unions:
INHOFE: I write this letter to express my great concern to policy issued on August 13, 2013, especially the intent to extend special uncharged leave benefits to same-sex partners and not to all military couples. … Mr. Secretary, I firmly support the Department of Defense’s stated commitment to ensuring that all men and women who serve our country and their families should be treated fairly and equally. However, this change in policy will create disparate treatment between same-sex and opposite-sex couples in our armed forces contrary to the Department’s stated policy.
Inhofe had earlier blasted the proposal as an example of the Obama administration “eroding our military’s historical apolitical stance by using it as their activism arm for their liberal social agenda.”
Inhofe’s claim that he supports fair and equal treatment seems to conflict with this record. His official Senate website boasts that he has “consistently supported and defended traditional marriage between one man and one woman as a cornerstone to the strength of our society,” and that he strongly opposes “the Obama Administration’s attack on traditional marriage and attempts to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act.” Inhofe voted for the unconstitutional DOMA law in 1996 and co-sponsored a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages.
Of course, if his concern about “disparate treatment” is sincere, the solution is obvious: he should work toward making sure same-sex couples, especially those who serve their country, are free to marry in all 50 states. He could start with his own state of Oklahoma, which has had a marriage inequality constitutional amendment since 2004. Failing that, this small accommodation is far from a “special” privilege, but rather a partial mitigation of the discrimination that continues against service-members in same-sex relationships.