Same rights for same-sex marriages


Same rights for same-sex marriages

by: Kim Suchek | .
Stripes Okinawa | .
published: January 04, 2014

Hello Military Community,

Last year we saw the second anniversary of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which barred gay and lesbians from serving openly in the military. This along with the Department of
Defense approving same-sex spousal benefits is a great stride forward for many military families.  

The new policy from Sept. 2013 allows unmarried same-sex service members living in states or countries that deny them the freedom to marry up to 10 days of leave so that they can travel to a state, country or district that does allow same-sex couples to legally marry.

In the past two years, life for gay and lesbian service members, veterans and their families has improved dramatically for many. Service members have been blocked and denied leave to accomplish this for various reasons but definite progress has been made in many ways. The repeal of DADT and the Supreme Court’s Defense of Marriage Act decision have dramatically improved the lives of gay and lesbian service members and their families, but there is still much work to be done.

It’s still illegal for same-sex couples to marry in 37 states and many countries. This means that while the federal government will respect and honor the marriages of gay couples living in those states and countries, the couples continue to be denied state-level protections.

Without the freedom to marry in all states and countries same-sex military families continue to see their marriage disrespected, and they face challenges, delays, and uncertainty when it comes to state taxes, home ownership, and what might happen if they were not employed by the U.S. military.

Another obstacle for same-sex marriages within the military is talk of legal issues and accusations of “unfair” echoing across military communities. Many heterosexual couples believe it is unfair that same-sex couples get the excused 10-day leave. Critics and other service members believe the Obama administration created this controversy by going too far to please gay and lesbian groups and have caused discord.

The Department of Defense knows it has a perception problem and to ensure these changes are positive DOD officials are reviewing the policy which allows up to 10 days of non-chargeable “marriage leave” for same-sex service members assigned more than 100 miles from a state or country where they can marry legally.

Instead of unearned leave, which might need to be backed by statute, commands might be encouraged to grant up to 10 days of “administrative absence.” The intent still would be to give same-sex service members extra time off to travel to where same-sex marriage is allowed, and thus qualify them sooner for full benefits, including spousal medical care and “with dependents” housing allowances.

Harder for critics to grasp is why any member wishing to marry can’t just use earned leave, which totals 30 days per year and/or use vacation days as other couples do. I believe the intentions were honorable but if we want all service members to accept equality, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, etc., the leadership needs to follow those rules and there can be no special treatment. To me, the simple solution to this problem would be for the Federal Government, which now ties a lot of benefits to being married, to allow marriages on federal reservations such as military installations.

What are your thoughts or suggestions?

Blessings from my family to yours,

Kim Suchek

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