Same-sex couples that have one or both partners working for the military are required to keep their relationship secret. To maintain secrecy, some partners must live apart. The secrecy alone is a terrible burden, which threatens to destroy their family.
To keep such a secret, partners must never hold hands in public, or even in front of friends. They must refrain from going shopping together for fear of being seen too often in each other’s company.
This secrecy also makes forming long-lasting relationships more difficult, or even impossible. To compel someone to deny their orientation is a form of torture that debilitates, depresses, and emotionally cripples.
Because partners cannot have any sort of legal relationship, they are denied all spousal benefits, including items such as medical and life insurance.
Should a relationship go sour, an unethical former partner could inform the military about a soldier’s orientation. If no anti-gay law was in place, the possibility of blackmail would be nonexistent.
The U.S. military is the only American employer that requires firing openly gay men and lesbians.
The so-called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Harass” 1993 law is the only U.S. law that authorizes an employer to fire someone for being gay.
By 2005, the military’s anti-gay law allowed discharging more than 10,000 gay and lesbian service members.
Purging vital personnel in linguists, intelligence analysis, and medical specialists, for instance, hurts military readiness. Every day, nearly three service members lose their jobs under this law. This drumming out process has unnecessarily cost more than $200 million since its inception.
Currently, the U.S. — in Afghanistan and elsewhere — fights alongside 13 other nations that have troops that include openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual soldiers.
The United Kingdom lifted the ban on openly gay service members in January 2000, following the European Court of Human Rights ruling that gay service members must not be excluded. By August 2001, the U.K. was considering allowing pensions, living together on army bases in the U.K. and overseas, as well as other benefits for same-sex partners.
Following the enactment of “Civil Partnerships” in Great Britain (November 19, 2004), the government announcement that the Royal Navy became the first branch of the services to say it welcomes personnel in a same-sex relationship to stay in family quarters, once they have registered their union.
In January 2005, the Canadian Forces drafted a policy calling for military Chaplains to formally bless same-sex weddings.
In October 2005, the Australian Defence Force (ADF) offered same-sex partners of soldiers, sailors and pilots the same range of family benefits available to personnel in recognized opposite-sex relationships. The benefits include items such as housing assistance, relocation expenses, and reunion travel costs.
What You Can Do
If you are in the military:
Because the current law prohibits gay, lesbian bisexual service members from disclosing sexual orientation — and your personal computer can be confiscated and searched — be extremely cautious about which computers are used and the e-mail you save. Do not use a military or government computer to search the Web or receive mail, which could put your career in jeopardy.
Everyone can support reform:
Advice from the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network:
“Say nothing. Sign nothing. Get legal help.”
Call on Congress, the White House, and the Pentagon to lift the ban on lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members. Our troops should be able to live and serve honestly.
The following provide a great deal of information and further suggestions for action:
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network
PO Box 65301, Washington DC 20035-5301
202-328-3244; fax 202-797-1635; firstname.lastname@example.org
lifttheban.org - to sign their petition
National, non-profit legal services, watchdog and policy organization dedicated to ending discrimination against and harassment of military personnel affected by "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and related forms of intolerance.
Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military
Department of Political Science
University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106-9420
805-893-5664; fax 805-893-3309; email@example.com
Promotes the interdisciplinary analysis of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and other marginalized sexual identities in the armed forces.
American Veterans for Equal Rights
PO Box 1490, 2020 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington D.C. 20006
Dedicated to the fair and equal treatment of all veterans and service members, and to honoring the sacrifices of all who have served.
Colonel Margarethe (Grethe) Cammermeyer, retired, maintains this Web site for telling her story of winning reinstatement in the military after revealing her orientation, as well as providing information, and resources.