home about media center archive history letters

From the Editor:
New York, July 18,  2006

Sgt Denny's Rant:
Marriage and Military

Imagine post-apocalypse Baghdad, in the basement of a former presidential palace where Hussein had his harem and now filled with soldiers phoning their partners.  At one table sits a British officer, Lieutenant Lawrence Lyons, cheerfully chatting with his beloved Brian.  Next to him sits Sgt. John Q. American (not his real name) nervously pretending to speak with 'Alice' instead of his lover Alex.  Being only 21 years old, he's unaware that he's replicating a ritual that was more common to gay people who lived in 1953 when keeping the secret by switching gender was second nature.  Poor John Q isn't used to this kind of shit of having to hide who he is in 2006.

Straight soldiers take for granted the right to telephone their spouses.  Wives and husbands of those service members serving overseas receive paychecks, support, benefits and entitlements such as access to low priced commissaries.  Their children get military financed medical care, counseling, and education.  And when a service member is killed in combat far from home, the spouse is respectfully informed, often by uniformed officers.  The list of essential rights, sustenance, and privileges is nearly endless for married soldiers.  Yet Gay and Lesbian partners are without protection from the financial and emotional absence of their lovers who are faithfully and patriotically serving our country.  Even death in battle is realized only from hearing nothing, from suddenly receiving no further word from the person they love.

The Military Readiness Enhancement Act would allow Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual soldiers to serve openly.  But the act  excludes same sex partner benefits presumably in an attempt to appease ignorant bigoted conservative legislators zealously protecting the despicable 'Defense of Marriage Act.'  I believe its a mistake that the act that would repeal the Don't Ask Don't Tell law makes the same sort of discriminatory compromise by denying human dignity to patriotic volunteers serving their country.

Imagine if Truman would have had the temerity to tell Black soldiers, in 1948, that their families would get no benefits.  Truman did not operate that way then; and I think we should be following his courageous example now.  It does not reflect American values of equality and fairness to propose to tell lesbian and gay patriotic volunteers that while their sacrificial service would be welcome, their families are forbidden from receiving any benefits.

Now, seriously, professional pragmatists will point out that including partner benefits in a law that would allow queers to serve in America's armed forces would 'trigger' the marriage-issue opposition to reject any possibility of passage.  They say that the only way to pass the act is to have the cooperation of 'moderate conservatives.'  Would those opposed to our rights go along with partner benefits only for gay white Christians?   Is a moderate conservative someone who hates only a little bit as compared to absolute moral fascists?  

Those sixty five thousand Lesbian and Gay patriotic volunteers serving in silence today do so with no expectation of any rights.  Those one million living Lesbian and Gay veterans who have served our country since World War II, did our patriotic duty with no expectation of rights.  Those volunteers serving now and those of us who served before know and knew that we could be booted out and loose all benefits if we were found out to be queer.  But nevertheless, we served because we wanted to, just as those who serve today do.  Are we willing to accept that as we depart for war and openly kiss our loved ones goodbye we will still have to say, "listen, if I die, don't expect anything."

The Military Readiness Enhancement Act will not come anywhere near the possibility of a vote in this session of Congress.  It will have to be resubmitted next year.  I urge that the section excluding the requirement to provide dependant benefits, in accordance with the 'Defense of Marriage Act,' be omitted in the new version.  What I am suggesting here is that the bill 'not say anything,' one way or the other, about partner benefits.  That way, there wont be a reason for yet another years long battle for benefits.  Without legal federal marriage recognition, the military will not have to provide partner benefits anyway, if openly out volunteers are allowed to serve.  What they will have to do is simply recognize someone 'designated' to at least be notified in the event of death in battle; there will no longer be a reason to have to keep a same sex partner a secret.  Whenever marriage, as a separate issue, is finally recognized, then benefits will simply fall into place. 

All names used in this article are contrived, any similarity to the names of actual people is purely coincidental.