Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Legal discrimination in the military

Lost among all of the scandals in Washington DC and the focus on sexual assault in the military, is the overlooked fact that the Department of Defense has openly and legally instituted marital discrimination in the ranks.  While traditional marriage partners (one man and one woman) have to provide a copy of their marriage license, same sex couples only have to provide a "declaration attesting to the existence of their committed relationship".  That's right, gay couples can legally receive military spouse benefits without the formality of getting married.

Before he left as Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta signed a widely touted memo extending military benefits to same sex couples now that 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' had been removed as official policy.  It was hardly unexpected, even though gay advocacy groups had repeated the mantra for years that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military was only about open service, not the financial benefits.

But tucked in the second page of the memo (full version of the memo here) was an innocuous line that hardly anyone in the military community paid attention to until recently-gay couples will not have to be married to receive benefits paid to married couples. (H/T to This Ain't Hell) Or, more accurately, a common law marriage will suffice for the military.

Same sex couples requesting marital benefits will be required to sign an affidavit that attests that they are in a committed relationship, both of the same sex, share responsibility for each other's welfare, and either have or plan to have a common residence.  Applicants are further required to inform the military if they leave this committed relationship within 30 days, under pain of penalty under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.  This application is at the bottom of the memo linked above.

The issue here is not same sex marriage-that is still a matter for states to decide, and as long as DOMA is still the law of the land, the military is required by law to obey.  The issue here is the disparity of treatment; traditional couples are being discriminated against.  Under this policy, two men who are not married but in a "committed relationship" can receive marital benefits.  But a man and woman, who are also in an identical committed relationship but are not married, are still treated as a single soldier and their significant other.

For nearly two years, progressives in Minnesota have told us that everyone should have the freedom to get married.  Now the DOD is saying that marriage isn't even required to enjoy the financial benefits of marriage.  What's next?

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