Marriage Equality in the Military
When Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed, it opened a huge doorway for the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community in the military. However, it did not open the door all of the way. Even though LGBTQ people are now allowed to openly serve in the military, they still are not afforded the same benefits and recognition that heterosexual married couples have. The 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which defines marriage for federal program purposes as a legal union between a man and woman; prohibits the Defense Department from extending those benefits to LGBTQ couples, even if they are married legally in certain states. Thus the definition of marriage still remains as the formal union of a man and a woman, typically recognized by law, by which two people become husband and wife. This definition follows right in line with DOMA. However when it is repealed, we will no longer see ‘man and woman’ or ‘husband and wife’ but the simple term ‘two people’ in regards to all walks of life. It has been a year since the repeal of DADT, and with the military moving forward with LGBTQ equality we may be approaching a time when all people have equal rights to marry whomever they please. Given the high respect our nation has for the military, I believe it makes them the perfect vehicle to further LGBTQ marriage equality. The legal standpoint of DOMA seems to be the first hurdle that needs to be jumped in order to further LGBTQ marriage equality. Defense of Marriage Act of 1996
In order to understand the significance of DOMA within the ongoing fight for LGBTQ rights, we need to look at the legal ramifications of DOMA, and the restrictions that it places on certain benefits, and the recipient of those benefits. With DOMA in place there are over a thousand different federal benefits that legally married LGBTQ couples are not afforded. It creates extreme hardships for LGBTQ couples who cannot file joint federal income tax returns or take deductions that are given in traditional marriages, there are no spousal Social Security benefits and they can't take advantage of the Family and Medical Leave law that protects one's job and health insurance during emergency absences, and surviving LGBTQ spouses have no protection from estate taxes when their spouse dies (Baynes, 2012). Furthermore, the military’s LGBTQ couples are not receiving housing benefits that the federal government provides to straight couples which forces them to either pay out of pocket or bite the bullet and live in the single barracks away from each other. This negatively effects LGBTQ military members and does not give them any of the same rights and benefits that straight military members have. For example, a man and woman that are married (and one of them is in the military) are allotted a house and full benefits like money to pay their rent off base or Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH). For example: two men or two women that are married by the state of New York are not able to receive any of the aforementioned benefits because the federal government does not recognize the marriage between two women or two men. There are, in fact, married LGBTQ military members that are not able to stay stationed with their significant others due to the fact that our federal government does not recognize the marriage. For straight military members, when both parties are in the military and married the government will do everything in their power to make sure that both spouses are stationed, at the least, on the same military installation. Currently, LGBTQ military members are not afforded any of these federal benefits because of the non-recognition of their marriage. Military members as a whole should be outraged that their brothers and sisters are being treated unfairly and they should want to take this issue straight to congress and stress that this country needs change....