Military troops and their families often have little to no choice on whether they are stationed in a state that respects their marriage and family rights
Tomorrow, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) will begin hearing oral arguments in challenges to state bans on marriage equality, the outcome of which could lead to nationwide marriage equality. Today, the American Military Partner Association (AMPA), the nation’s largest organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) military families, emphasized that the decision will significantly impact same-sex military couples who often have little to no choice as to whether or not they are stationed in a state that respects their marriage and family rights.
“Same-sex military couples and our families often have little to no choice where the military stations us, including in non-marriage equality states,” said AMPA President Ashley Broadway-Mack, spouse of an active-duty soldier, and mother of two young children. “From the denial of federal veterans benefits to legal challenges with state family recognition, the significant impact of marriage inequality harms our families serving our nation. Our military families already sacrifice a tremendous amount, and the last thing they should have to worry about is whether or not the state they are stationed in recognizes their marriage.”
With frequent moves to states without marriage recognition and parental rights; soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines continue to face discrimination based on where they live. Normal military assignments rotate every 2-3 years and the services often place LGBT military families in states that refuse to recognize their marriages. This has a direct impact on the family, creating a breeding ground for unnecessary burdens on the service member, spouse, and children – burdens which ultimately impact military readiness.
As AMPA stated in in its joint brief to SCOTUS, “the uneven patchwork of states providing marriage equality harms military families, undermines national security, and harms veterans by cutting them off to earned federal benefits.”
“It is perverse for the government to grant leave to enable a same-sex couple to travel to a state where they can legally marry, for the government to recognize that marriage as valid for however many more years the service member continues to serve, and then suddenly ignore that marriage as soon as the service member retires and obtains veteran’s status. Likewise, it would be inequitable to force veterans to move away from their homes to marriage equality states so they and their spouses can get the federal veterans’ benefits they earned,” the brief to SCOTUS continued.
Nationwide recognition of marriage equality is a vitally important step in the right direction, and a move that our nation’s LGBT service members and their families deserve. It’s time to level the playing field and treat all service members and their families equally with marriage recognition.
With the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) in 2010, lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) service members and their families no longer have to live a duplicitous life, shrouded in secrecy and fear solely based on who they love. The freedoms they were fighting for on the front lines were freedoms that were denied to them when they returned home. The repeal opened the door and allowed some service members the freedom to no longer face the shadowing fear of discharge, but it did not open the door to full equality for all LGBT service members and their families. Transgender service members are still prohibited from serving openly and honestly, and LGB service members are still not protected in the military’s equal opportunity program. There is still a significantly long way to go for full LGBT equality in the military.