As an Army Reservist, I had to attend training this month to gain an understanding of what the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell means to current servicemembers.
I’m glad the policy is being repealed. It’s a great step toward equality, but let’s not overestimate how large a step it is. After going through this training, I found the effects of the repeal to be somewhat underwhelming. Here’s a brief explanation why. Mind you, this is my summary with my opinions and it is not an official word from the Army or any other organization with which I’m affiliated.
There are certain privileges married servicemembers receive: They get paid more for having dependents, they get certain bonuses during deployments, they get to bring their spouses on a lot of overseas assignments, they get health care for their families, etc. For servicemembers married to fellow servicemembers, they get a fairly common assurance that they will be sent on many of the same assignments as their spouses. If they are on the same deployment in a combat zone, they often get to cohabitate.
So what of these benefits will be bestowed upon homosexual couples? None.
The military follows the federal law that does not recognize homosexual marriage. So even if a homosexual couple is legally married in New York, the military will not recognize that marriage. A homosexual’s spouse is not eligible for military health care. A married homosexual does not receive extra pay for having a dependent and does not receive the deployment-based separation bonus for leaving his/her spouse behind.
Let’s talk about what’s called command sponsorship. If a married heterosexual servicemember gets sent to Germany for a couple of years, he is eligible for command sponsorship for his family. That means he can request that the military facilitate and pay for the movement of his family to accompany him. Quite simply, the military makes it legal for the servicemember and his family to live in Germany without having to get visas or go through any other legal hurdles. If a homosexual servicemember is sent on an assignment to Germany, command sponsorship is not an option; he can’t even apply for it. That means he has to pay for his spouse’s/lover’s airfare and has to go through all the loops required to make it legal.
All that’s changed is that a servicemember can now openly admit to being a homosexual. That’s it.
Not that that’s insignificant. Again, I’m glad we’re looking at an official announcement about the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell today. I applaud everyone involved for having the courage and common sense necessary to get us this far. But I think we need to recognize that the fight isn’t over. Homosexual sevicemembers still have a ways to go before being afforded the same rights as heterosexuals serving in the military.