A recent, tear-inducing article in Slate covers an important aspect of social movements and their outcomes, particularly the important roles they play in changing institutional policies/structures and people’s lives. It covers the first gay wedding on a military installation and highlights the important role of the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) in this historic moment.
Although the article doesn’t describe these trail-blazing men as activists per se, in the article you see glimpses of their connection to the wider movement for openness and equality in the military. One thing that is missing is the continued fight these men and others will have to wage for equal rights within military pay & benefits rules. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) reduces the effects of DADT’s repeal. It limits military health, dental or life insurance, full access to base facilities, military legal services, and employment & education assistance to only heterosexual spouses and their children (this means Will and his children must get these elsewhere). Erwynn and Will will not receive a number of family-related military pay and increased allowances including family separation allowance, surviving spouse benefits, and increased housing and relocation allowances (these are only given to heterosexual married servicemembers). Also, DOMA prohibits Erwynn (and other military members) from listing Will (and other same-sex partners) as their primary next of kin, who would be notified first, make decisions about remains, and entitled to services in the event of the servicemember’s death. Will could also legally be excluded from support services such as base or unit-level spousal organizations (that are increasingly open to straight boyfriends and girlfriends) as well as programming by the Morale, Welfare, and Recreation Programs.
In other words, the fight continues. To learn more about one organization that Will & Erwynn mention working with, that supports actively serving LGBT military members see OutServe and to learn more about the fight for equality within military policy and practice see the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network’s (another group continuing this fight) Guide to LGBT Military Service.