Moving Toward Equality for LGBT Servicemembers

There are 93 spousal benefits that LGBT veterans are denied and 275 provisions related to marriage benefits for federal civilian and military service benefits that LGBT servicemembers are denied, and those are just the ones tallied by the GAO in 2005 of the 1,138 federal rights that come with marriage. This number does not include the random benefits that married servicemembers get (e.g. phone cards or time to call a spouse while deployed).

So, it is nothing short of awesome that this week the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network filed a lawsuit in federal court to secure spousal benefits for legally married gay and lesbian troops. According to the Gay Politics Report, “the suit takes aim at the Defense of Marriage Act, which prevents the Pentagon and other federal agencies from offering the same benefits that are available to married heterosexual service members to families of openly gay troops.”

If you are curious about these rights, you can read more about them in my book Love Warriors or Why You Should Give A Damn About Gay Marriage. They include things like the right to be buried with your spouse in a veterans’ cemetery, the right to shop at the commissary, health benefits, student and housing loans, and pension benefits.

Aubrey Sarvis, Executive Director of SLDN, who has worked tirelessly for many years advocating the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, says that these men and women are “rendering the same military service, making the same sacrifices and taking the same risks to keep our nation secure at home and abroad.” So it is “plain and simple. It’s about justice for gay and lesbian service members and their families.”

Let’s recognize Veterans’ Day this year by speaking out for full and equal employment benefits for our LGBT servicemembers. 

 

Straight Southern Methodist Minister Defrocked For Marrying Same-Sex Couples

Jimmy Creech is about the nicest guy you could expect to meet. He’s like John Boy all grown-up. He’s sweet, gentle, and has an easy on the ears Southern drawl. I met him in 2004 when I was on book tour in Raleigh, North Carolina for Why You Should Give A Damn About Gay Marriage. Jimmy Creech

I’d been introduced to Rev. Jimmy Creech by Mel White, Soulforce Founder. Mel was so proud to tell me about this Straight Methodist Minister who’d been defrocked for marrying same-sex couples. “You must interview him,” Mel insisted. After our interview, I was equally smitten by his courageous actions before same-sex marriage was legal anywhere.

Rev. Jimmy Creech began performing blessings of same-sex unions in 1990. He believed he was answering to a higher calling by supporting and affirming the love of same-sex couples. Although this was at odds with the politics of the United States Methodist Church, he continued to bless same-sex couples’ unions even after he was told by Methodist church officials to stop. Soon he was told he was “no longer welcome to serve churches in North Carolina.” However, in 1996, he was invited to serve as the senior pastor at the First United Methodist Church in Omaha, Nebraska.

In 1997, Rev. Creech blessed the union of a lesbian couple who attended that church. When church administrators heard of the news they brought charges against him. Luckily Rev. Creech was acquitted because, at the time, there was no clear law prohibiting ministers from celebrating same-sex holy unions. Rev. Creech was willing to sacrifice his career in order to stand as a straight ally and religious voice to end discrimination. But when he blessed the union of two men in April 1999, the Methodist Church had an official policy that prohibited gay unions and Rev. Creech was defrocked.

He responded by saying that “it’s just clear evidence of the heterosexism and prejudice within the church, that even the highest court of the church would decide that one little sentence out of a whole document of material would be law when everything else is guidance. The church wants to use its power and all of its resources to persecute gay people and to deny them full equality.”

Since then, he has made equality for LGBT people his life’s work. He has received the Flagbearer Award from PFLAG National; the Human Rights Campaign Equality Award; the Saint Alive Award presented by Metropolitan Community Church, San Francisco; the North Carolina Pride, Inc. Award; and the Lee and Mae Ball Award, presented by The Methodist Federation for Social Action. He was selected as one of OUT magazine’s “Out 100” in 1998 and 1999.

Jimmy was a featured guest at the Washington, DC Marriage Equality Rally I organized on October 11, 2004 and has been speaking around the country this year about equality for LGBT people in conjunction with the release of his new memoir about his moral journey of rejecting the church’s teaching on homosexuality, his revelation that same-sex love was of equal value in the eyes of God to the love of a man and a woman, his decision to bless those unions, and the ensuing censure from his job and spiritual home. The book is called Adam’s Gift.

Adam’s Gift honors the relationship of mentor and student and how the student is sometimes the one who teaches and expands the mind of the mentor. You’re going to love this book and Jimmy’s Southern cadence.

Click here to get your copy of  Adam’s Gift

or for information on Jimmy’s book tour and upcoming speaking engagements.

Jimmy is the epitome of a Love Warrior which is why you can also read about his thoughts on marriage equality in Chapter 16 of Love Warriors: The Rise of the Marriage Equality Movement and Why It Will Prevail 

I highly recommend it.