Servicemembers Legal Defense Network on Tuesday marked the six month anniversary of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” by calling on the Defense Department to extend available benefits and support to married gay and lesbian service members and their families.
Army Veteran and SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis called on Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to use his existing authority to grant legally marriage gay couples the same rights offered to their heterosexual counterparts..
“Even as we celebrate the success we have seen so far on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal, we know that implementation cannot be entirely successful as long as we have two classes of service members,” Sarvis said, in a statement.
“It’s past time for the Secretary of Defense to act on this front, and at this six-month mark, it would be entirely appropriate to do so. The reality is that the Department of Defense started looking at benefits long before repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ took place, including in the findings of the Comprehensive Review Working Group,” he said.
According to Sarvis, Panetta has the authority to grant many benefits without coming into conflict with the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) or other federal statutes, including issuing military ID cards to same-sex spouses, hospital visitation, family housing, joint duty assignments, and a variety of morale, welfare, and recreational programs.
SLDN first called on Panetta in August 2011 to extend these benefits and reiterated that call in January 2012.
On Oct. 27, SLDN filed a federal lawsuit in U. S. District Court in Boston on behalf of eight married gay and lesbian service members and veterans seeking equal recognition, benefits and family support for equal sacrifice and service in the U.S. Armed Forces. Currently, there is a sixty-day stay in the case that expires on April 28, 2012.
“These plaintiffs take the same risks, make the same sacrifices, and provide the same service, yet when it comes to benefits like housing, health care, survivor benefits, and family support, they are not treated the same as their straight, married peers. It’s time to repeal DOMA and change these discriminatory laws,” said Savis.
“We cannot be a nation with two classes of service members,” he said.