Latest News

 

Hagel Renews Commitment to Action on Benefits for Gay and Lesbian Service Members

For immediate release:
Thursday, January 31, 2013

Contact: Zeke Stokes at
202-621-5406 or zeke@outserve-sldn.org

Hagel Renews Commitment to Action on Recognition, Benefits, and Support for Gay and Lesbian Service Members in Confirmation Hearing Testimony

(Washington, DC) Consistent with his recent public statements, former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel reiterated his commitment to do everything possible under current law to provide gay and lesbian service members and their families with equal benefits and support today during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill. Hagel said he would move quickly upon confirmation to create greater equity for gay and lesbian service members and their families should he become Secretary of Defense.

“After two years of equivocation and delay by Pentagon leadership, it is gratifying to see Senator Hagel show the kind of clear, unambiguous support for our service members and their families we saw today. It is an historic day when issues critical to gay and lesbian service members and their families take center stage in a confirmation hearing for Secretary of Defense,” said Army Veteran and OutServe-SLDN Executive Director Allyson Robinson.

OutServe-SLDN has pressed the Pentagon to take action on benefits equity for over two years. Last October, with no public explanation, the service chiefs shelved a plan to extend benefits not tied to the federal definition of marriage to gay and lesbian service members. In recent weeks, Robinson called on current Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to use his authority in the final days of his tenure to extend available benefits to all military families. OutServe-SLDN has identified a number of benefits that could be offered immediately without violating the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. For a full list of these benefits, click here.

Likewise, Hagel affirmed his support for gay and lesbian service members when questioned by "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal supporter, Senator Mark Udall (D-CO), about so-called "conscience protections" passed in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) this year. Hagel indicated he would ensure that all service members were granted the same "rights and opportunities" and that no service members would be disallowed from using military facilities for private religious ceremonies.

Senator Hagel did not address in his testimony the lack of critical nondiscrimination and equal opportunity protections for LGBT service members.

"It's time for our nation's military leaders to send a clear message that relegating LGBT service members to second-class status is no longer acceptable," said Robinson. "If Senator Hagel is confirmed, he must use his authority to ban discrimination and guarantee equal opportunity for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender members of the military."

Currently, unlike other minority groups, LGBT service members are not protected with an avenue of recourse outside their chain of command should they experience harassment or discrimination. Such protections are common elsewhere in the federal government and throughout the private sector, with 88 percent of Fortune 500 companies protecting employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

ABOUT OUTSERVE-SLDN: OutServe-SLDN is the association of actively serving LGBT military personnel with more than fifty chapters and 6000 members around the world It works to support a professional network of LGBT military personnel and create an environment of respect in the military with regard to sexual orientation and gender identity. It is a non-partisan, non-profit, legal services and policy organization dedicated to bringing about full LGBT equality to America's military and ending all forms of discrimination and harassment of military personnel on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. OS-SLDN provides free and direct legal assistance to service members and veterans affected by the repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law and the prior regulatory ban on open service, as well as those currently serving who may experience harassment or discrimination. For more information, visit www.outserve-sldn.org.

Click here to read the original article.