"5 LGBT Inequalities That Persist In The Military"
Two years ago today, the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” took effect, and gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members were free to serve openly and with integrity for the first time in American history. The anniversary should not only serve as a reminder of how far we have come in the march toward full equality in the military, but also a time to rededicate ourselves to the fight for full LGBT equality in our nation’s armed forces. Despite the repeal of DADT and the demise of the Defense of Marriage Act this past summer, LGBT service members and veterans still face significant discrimination.
Achieving LGBT equality in the armed forces is not just a matter of principle; it is also about acknowledging the fact that the military operates best when all service members are treated fairly and facing the reality that many different types of Americans serve in uniform and make sacrifices on our behalf, including those who are LGBT.
Here are other major issue areas where LGBT Americans continue to face discrimination in our nation’s armed forces:
Conservatives are fighting for a “license to discriminate” against LGBT service members. By falsely asserting that religious freedom in the military is under attack, conservatives are attempting to pave the way for service members to discriminate against other troops by establishing broad exemptions for the religious views of service members. These so-called “conscious clauses” would make it nearly impossible for a commander to prevent harassment, discrimination, and intimidation against LGBT service members in his or her unit.
Benefits For Veterans’ Same-Sex Spouses
It’s unclear if all legally married veterans will receive spousal benefits. Until the Department of Veterans Affairs issues guidance on the implementation of DOMA repeal, it remains unclear whether veterans in same-sex marriages will be eligible for federal benefits if they reside in a state that does not recognize their marriage. For example, if a veteran travels to Maryland in order to get married, then returns home to Virginia, a state that does not recognize same-sex marriage, that veteran may still not receive any veteran spousal benefits.
“Less Than Honorable” Discharges
Service members discharged before 1993 for homosexuality are still fighting for discharge upgrades. Before the implementation of DADT, service members who were found to have engaged in homosexual conduct were likely to receive discharges that were Less than Honorable. This classification marks a veteran for discrimination for employment outside the military and often means forfeiture of benefits such as health care, tuition assistance, and ceremonial burial right at military cemeteries.
Sodomy remains, inexplicably, illegal according to military law. Though the military’s ban on consensual sodomy is arguably unenforceable since the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” many view the law as a relic of the military’s history of discrimination and gay and lesbian service members, as it literally shares a sentence with bestiality in the UCMJ.
The repeal of DADT did nothing to remove the ban on transgender Americans serving in the military. Despite the prohibition, transgender people serve at the double the rate of the general population, though they must keep their gender identity a secret or risk being discharged.
Although fair-minded members of Congress have worked to remedy these inequalities ,other members have been wasting time by inserting frivolous and anti-LGBT language into the FY 2014 National Defense Authorization Act — the single most critical bill to ensuring the functioning of our nation’s military — when they could have been focusing on funding the programs that preserve our security and support the troops. It is time that lawmakers lead, follow, or get out of the way when it comes to caring for our troops and achieving LGBT equality in the military.