ROBINSON PRAISES SMITH RE-INTRODUCTION OF HOUSE LEGISLATION
For immediate release:
Thursday, February 14, 2013
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ROBINSON PRAISES SMITH RE-INTRODUCTION OF HOUSE LEGISLATION THAT WOULD ENSURE EQUAL SUPPORT, BENEFITS FOR ALL MILITARY FAMILIES
(Washington, DC) Army Veteran and OutServe-SLDN Executive Director Allyson Robinson today applauded the re-introduction of H.R. 683, The Military Spouses Equal Treatment Act of 2013 (MSET) that would change the definition of "spouse" in four areas of U.S. Code related to recognition, support, and benefits for married service members and veterans. The changes - including to provisions in Titles 10, 32, and 38 that are challenged in OutServe-SLDN's landmark litigation, McLaughlin v. U.S., filed in October 2011 - would ensure that spouses of the same gender are eligible for key military benefits. The bill was first introduced in 2012.
"Since the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ there have been two classes of service members in this country - one that receives the nation’s full recognition, support and benefits and one that does not. By making an arbitrary distinction between gay and lesbian troops and their straight comrades, and forcing commanders to play favorites, the law as it stands harms all service members and weakens the force. This legislation fixes that problem," said Robinson.
Robinson said today that the changes MSET makes to U.S. law would still be necessary even if the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) were to be struck down or repealed, because they address entirely separate laws governing support and benefits for military members and veterans.
In addition to the titles challenged by OutServe-SLDN's court case, the bill - introduced by House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA) - also adds a favorable controlling definition of "spouse" to Title 37 to provide greater uniformity of benefits for same-sex spouses. Taken together, MSET would extend dozens of important spousal benefits and support programs to same-gender spouses, including coverage under TriCare insurance, an increased housing allowance and survivor benefits - and close some of the gaps left after the Pentagon’s limited extension of benefits announced earlier this week.
“Treating service members equally, without partiality or favoritism, is one of the most basic principles of sound military leadership,” said Robinson. “For this reason, equality for LGBT troops and their families is a national security issue. Commanders should not be forced to treat some service members like second-class citizens because the federal government does not recognize their marriages. Today, we thank Congressman Smith for taking this crucial step to strengthen our military, and we urge his colleagues in both parties and in both houses of Congress to join him and us in this important fight," said Robinson.
Robinson said she expects a companion bill to be introduced soon in the U.S. Senate and that OutServe-SLDN, working with allies, will work to gain co-sponsors for the legislation in both bodies.
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.