When an organization’s focus is on changing a major injustice, oftentimes it can lose direction, drive, and ultimately, relevance when it’s successful at changing that injustice. So here we are. After years of hard work and advocacy to get us here, the Defense Department has finally recognized the same-gender spouses of service members. So what now? Is our job finished?
Our mission is far from complete. At the American Military Partner Association (AMPA), our mission has never been about changing one policy. It’s always been about “connecting, supporting, honoring, and serving the partners and spouses of America’s LGBT service members and veterans – ‘our nation’s modern military families.’” What exactly does that mean? The answer is simple. We are focused on building and supporting strong military families. That doesn’t end with one change in law or policy.
Behind every service member is a family who serves. The whole point of “connecting, supporting, honoring, and serving” is to strengthen that military family through education, advocacy, and support. While there are many organizations out there dedicated to supporting military families, traditionally, LGBT military spouses and their families have been excluded and often made to feel unwelcome. After years of exclusion and being treated as if they don’t matter by mainstream organizations, where they go to for help and support doesn’t just suddenly change with a shift in policy.
Our mission continues in connecting and supporting. Whether through our online educational webinars where knowledge is power, our New Military Spouse Mentor Program designed to help MilSpouses on their new military journey, our local events around the country building a positive and supportive environment, or through our hosts of other projects, we remain committed to strengthening our military families by connecting and supporting them.
Our mission continues in honoring and serving. Institutionalized discrimination and personal bigotry is still very much alive and well. Our families still face a host of challenges in dealing with states and organizations around the country who continue to exclude them and deny them equal access, support, and protections as other military families receive. Whether it’s the lack of protections our families have in non-marriage equality states, discrimination by the National Guard in some states, a lack of military chaplain support by almost a quarter of military chaplains, the threat of discharge for identifying as transgender, or a lack of inclusion of sexual orientation in the Defense Department non-discrimination policy for uniformed service members, challenges remain and our work in advocacy continues.
So what now? Our mission continues. At AMPA, we remain committed to connecting, supporting, honoring, and serving our modern military families through education, support, and advocacy. With your help, we’ll continue to be agents of change and make a positive impact on our families.
Stephen Peters is the president of the American Military Partner Association. A Marine veteran, he also serves on the Spouse Council for the Military Officers Association of America and currently lives in Washington DC with his husband, who is an active duty Marine stationed at the Pentagon. Read more about our leadership here.