LGBTQ Military Couples & Families Experience Far from Equal Benefits

For the second consecutive year the Department of Defense has designated June, as it LGBTQ pride month. That statement alone would make any advocate pause and enjoy the moment of just how far we have come. Since the repeal of “Don’t ask Don’t tell”(DADT) on September 20th, 2011 many LGBTQ service members have been able to serve openly and engage in DOD recognized domestic partnerships. The Department of Defense’s recognition of domestic partnerships has facilitated open access to many benefits well earned by military service. However, many of the benefits that the DOD has released to the public could already be accessed through different channels before the repeal of DADT. For example: Service Members Group Life Insurance (SGLI) is the first benefit listed on a DOD memo dated February 11th, 2013, as a benefit for same-sex couples; however, any person can be listed as a beneficiary for a service member’s SGLI including non family members. This is certainly not a new benefit triggered by the repeal of DADT.

In the spirit of fairness the DOD has made some benefits available to same-sex couples that were prohibited prior to the repeal. For Example: Military couples that engage in a domestic partnership will be eligible to receive a Dependent ID card giving them access to the PX (Base retail store), Commissary (Base grocery store), and recreational opportunities on military installations. However, the memo clearly states that essential benefits such as health care and housing allowance by statute (Defense of Marriage Act) are only available to spouses or married couples; therefore, cannot be made available for same-sex partners under current law.

Many may be asking what this policy means. Essentially, the overtly institutional hetero-sexist policy of the Defense of Marriage Act is preventing our LGBTQ service members from providing critical benefits to their partners. Basic allowance for housing that heterosexual married couples are receiving ads up to thousands of dollars a year used to provide adequate housing for their families, same-sex couples are not eligible. Access to expert medical care from one of the largest providers of health care in the world is off limits to the domestic partner of a LGBTQ service member.

When I served overseas I must admit that there was not much to take comfort in. However, I always knew that my spouse would receive my housing allowance to keep a roof over her head. Also, I always knew that if she got sick, she was only a phone call away from expert medical care. Please notice the use of my pronouns, because if she were he I would not have enjoyed heterosexual privilege, instead I would have been oppressed by it. This policy has very real and very painful consequences for everyone in the LGBTQ community, but the oppressive policy of the Defense of Marriage Act cuts especially deep to all the LGBTQ who where our uniform proudly and defend our nation faithfully.

By: Michael Devilliers
SJS Staff Writer

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