Post submitted by Kevin Nix, Former HRC Campaign Media Director
Yesterday a U.S. Army spokesperson backed the decision by the Association of [Fort] Bragg Officers’ Spouses to deny membership to the wife of a lesbian Army officer. Yet just days before, the Marine Corps Commandant instructed clubs at all Marine bases to welcome same-sex spouses as a condition of continued operation on Marine installations. BuzzFeed was the first to report yesterday's development.
“It makes no sense that the spouse of a service member can face discrimination in one branch of the Armed Services yet be protected from discrimination in another. This situation would not have occurred if the Pentagon was not dragging its heels on updating military regulations to include the families of gay service members,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “While there are many regulations the Pentagon needs to update to support the families of gay service members, we call on Secretary Panetta to immediately issue military regulations that will allow the spouses and partners of gay service members access to a military ID. This benefit is crucial to accessing many of the benefits and services offered to military families.”
Initially, the Association claimed that the spouse of the Army officer did not qualify for membership because she did not have a military ID card. Stunningly, the Association now claims, with the Army’s backing, that they can deny the officer’s spouse membership because federal law allows them to discriminate against gay individuals.
With the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2010, gay and lesbian service members were at long last able to serve their country openly and honestly. Unfortunately, repeal did not address a significant inequity still facing these brave men and women: that their families are not treated equally by the federal government. Because of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, same-sex military spouses and partners do not have access to many important benefits, including family health coverage under TRICARE and housing allowances. However, other benefits, including access to military ID cards, could be granted to these spouses and partners through regulatory revisions. Changes to the appropriate regulations have been pending since December 2010.
Today, HRC President Chad Griffin will be sending an official letter to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta calling on him to immediately issue new regulations allowing spouses and partners of gay service members access to military IDs.