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What Does the Repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell Mean?

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Question: What Does the Repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell Mean?
The military policy that forbid gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military has been overturned. Gays and lesbians can now serve in the US military. So, how will the lives of lesbian, gay and bisexual soldiers be different now that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is no longer in effect?
Answer: The repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell allows gay and lesbians to serve in the US military. It doesn't mean, however, that same-sex partners are eligible for all the benefits as opposite sex military couples. Actually, there are many instances where the families of of gay and lesbian service members are not treated equally because of the Defense of Marriage Law.

LGBT Military Families

Prior to the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" gay and lesbian service members were banned from getting married to a person of same sex. They couldn't display partner's pictures on their desks and their families had to live off base.

With the repeal, gay and lesbian soldiers can get married in states where same-sex marriage is legal. But, because the Defense of Marriage law is still in effect, their families and partners will not be eligible for any military benefits.

Children, however, whether adopted or biological are eligible for the same benefits as any other military member.

Next of Kin

When a soldier is injured or killed in combat, the military notifies the soldier's designated next of kin. Under the Defense of Marriage law, a soldier cannot name a same-sex partner as a next of kin. They can, now with the repeal of DADT, name their partner as “Designated Person," who will be notified of an emergency situation, but not as quickly and without the same detail of information a next of kin receives.

Housing

DOMA prevents the military from recognizing same-sex spouses as dependents of service members, so military family housing is not available to same-sex couples unless they have children. Likewise, if a service member is assigned to a new base, financial assistance is not available to help the partner relocate. Same-sex spouses are also not eligible for an educational stipend that opposite-sex couples are, to help them obtain a new career if necessary because of relocation.

Benefits

Military spouses are not eligible for health insurance, nor can they obtain a military ID card, which would allow them on access to the military base and services, like counseling, for military families.

Because of DOMA, same-sex spouses are not eligible for survivor benefits from the military for deceased service members. If a service member was previously in a heterosexual marriage, that ex-husband or wife may get the benefits instead.

Spousal Privilege

Like in US law, spouses can refuse to testify against their partner in military criminal court, but because same-sex marriage is not recognized under DOMA, same-sex spouses can be forced to testify against their loved ones and disclose confidential information shared during the marriage relationship.

Joint Duty

In cases where both members of a married couple are in the military, spouses are generally stationed in the same geographic location. In the case of same-sex couples, this will not be considered.

Although gay and lesbian soldiers are now able to serve openly, clearly they are not serving equally. Servicemenbers Legal Defense Network estimates that there are more than 100 benefits that gay and lesbian soldiers are not eligible for, even with the repeal of DADT. For more information contact Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

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