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.