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Sarvis: “No Second Class Service Members”

SLDN Calls for Equal Treatment for All Military Families as U.S. Marks Six Months Since DADT Repeal

For immediate release: Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Contact: Zeke Stokes at (202) 621-5406 or zeke@sldn.org

(Washington, D.C.) Army Veteran and SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis today congratulated the nation's armed forces on six months of successful implementation of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) repeal and called on Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to use his existing authority to extend available benefits and support to married gay and lesbian service members and their families.

"Even as we celebrate the success we have seen so far on 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' repeal, we know that implementation cannot be entirely successful as long as we have two classes of service members. It's past time for the Secretary of Defense to act on this front, and at this six-month mark, it would be entirely appropriate to do so. The reality is that the Department of Defense started looking at benefits long before repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' took place, including in the findings of the Comprehensive Review Working Group," said Sarvis.

Benefits the Secretary of Defense may without coming into conflict with the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) or other federal statutes include military ID cards, hospital visitation, family housing, joint duty assignments, and a variety of morale, welfare, and recreational programs. SLDN first called on Panetta in August 2011 to extend these benefits and reiterated that call in January 2012.

In addition, SLDN and the law firm, Chadbourne & Parke, have filed landmark litigation, representing eight married gay and lesbian service members and veterans. McLaughlin v. U.S., filed in October 2011, challenges DOMA and other federal statutes that preclude the military from providing equal recognition, support, and benefits to all families. Currently, there is a sixty-day stay in the case that expires on April 28, 2012.

"These plaintiffs take the same risks, make the same sacrifices, and provide the same service, yet when it comes to benefits like housing, health care, survivor benefits, and family support, they are not treated the same as their straight, married peers. It's time to repeal DOMA and change these discriminatory laws. We cannot be a nation with two classes of service members," said Sarvis.

For more on McLaughlin v. U.S. and the plaintiffs involved, click here.

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ABOUT SLDN: Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) 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. 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. Since 1993, our in-house legal team has responded to more than 11,500 requests for assistance. 

SLDN FREE HOTLINE: Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender service members with questions are urged to contact the SLDN hotline to speak with a staff attorney: Call 1-800-538-7418 or 202-328-3244 x100.

 

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