DOMA, Double Standards, and the Military

Couples of the same sex can marry at the West Point chapel, they're treated much differently under the Defense of Marriage Act.

Jonathan Hopkins notes that, while couples of the same sex can marry at the West Point chapel, they’re treated much differently under the Defense of Marriage Act.

— A gay or lesbian couple can get hundreds of dollars less per month because of differences in benefits, but they pay higher taxes because they must each file as “single.”

— Need to visit the base to go to the hospital, drop kids at day care, buy food or see a counselor because your spouse has been deployed for a year? Sorry, that all requires access that the gay spouse does not have, because he or she cannot get a military ID card.

— Have a medical emergency? The gay spouse goes to a civilian provider and pays out of pocket, while the straight spouse simply goes to the military hospital and everything is covered.

— Moving? Gay couples can’t ship as much to their next duty station and have to pay the airplane ticket of the civilian spouse.

— If you’re dual military and gay, you could be sent to duty stations thousands of miles apart, even if you have kids.

— Foreign national spouses, met overseas, can’t even get into the country since no visa exists for them.

— And what if the deployed soldier dies or comes down with a terminal illness? The straight spouse gets all survivor benefits such as back pay and pensions. The gay spouse? Nothing.

 

It’s a bizarre double standard now that gays and lesbians are allowed to serve openly. Hopkins, who graduated fourth in his class at West Point and served three combat tours in command of infantrymen, was separated in 2010 under the old Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.

FILED UNDER: Gender Issues, Military Affairs, Quick Takes
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. JKB says:

    Actually, gays spouses are not created differently in the military. Simply because they do not exist. Gays can serve openly but according to federal law, marriage is between a man and a woman. Marriage is the requirement to receive spousal benefits. Unmarried heterosexual couples experience the same “benefits” discrepancy because they are not married..

    But this was the plan all along. Protest for open service, then use the “spousal” benefits as a backdoor into federal recognition of gay spouses.

  2. jd says:

    @JKB: That was the plan! Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-haaaa!

  3. James Joyner says:

    @JKB: The federal government has never in its history had anything to do with marriage. States dictate who gets married and, under the federal Constitution, other states and the federal government extend full faith and credit to those marriages. Unless they’re gay.

  4. Bernieyeball says:

    …according to federal law, marriage is between a man and a woman.

    Just Kidding Because…I don’t know what I’m talking about.

  5. ptfe says:

    @JKB: What @James Joyner said.

    I’m sick of all the posturing and bullshit coming from the right regarding same-sex marriage — it almost always came with the standard, “I don’t hate gays…I have gay friends…they’re just immoral.” Your comment of “But they have the same rights as unmarried couples!” is as good an argument as “But laws against blacks buying houses in my neighborhood aren’t racist…they have the same rights as everybody else everywhere else!” It’s a wonder you can function in society.

    Just come right out and say that you hate faggots and queers. It will make your posts easier to read, and it will save you the effort of having to come up with homophobia-justifying crap.

  6. Gustopher says:

    @ptfe: I’ve never liked the term “homophobia”, because it’s so clinical and it softens the underlying problem. No one cares that people like JKB are afraid of gays — does that make any more difference than whether JKB is afraid of spiders or large dogs? — what matters is that he’s a bigot who advocates for lesser rights for those he disapproves of.

  7. Septimius says:

    @James Joyner:

    The federal government has never in its history had anything to do with marriage.

    Except for the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act of 1862, a federal law that outlawed bigamy in any United States territory.

    Except for the Edmunds Anti-Polygamy Act of 1882, a federal law that made polygamy a felony.

    Except for the fact that the Federal government required Utah to ban polygamy in the state constitution as a condition for statehood.

    Facts are stubborn things.

  8. JKB says:

    Interesting, somehow I’m a bigot and anti-gay simply because I pointed out the complete ignorance of the article’s author. Oh, and I did point out, the openly serving -> benefits path to federal acceptance.

    My concern with the article was the bogus comparison. And the problem is actually more than DOMA. Apparently, a lot of the spousal benefits laws explicitly define the male/female marriage. So there would be a lot of housekeeping to permit benefits to be provided. The solution is simple, get Congress to clean it all up. Get Congress to recognize gay couples married under state law. Or actually, get the government out of marriage. Have civil unions that govern inheritance, and other benefits as well as divorce and leave marriage to religion.

    But since right now, gay marriage is not recognized by the federal government and the federal laws govern the military, there is no disparity except that a gay couple cannot decide to get form a recognized union in which the non-military spouse become eligible. And keep in mind, if they don’t do all the house cleaning, many benefits provided an opposite sex spouse will not be available to same sex spouses.

    But let’s not skip the vital difference, same sex spouses must accept their member spouse will share a room or bay, shower and otherwise be around others of their sexual preference while deployed 24/7. Unlike opposite sex spouse who at least know their spouse is gender separated in berthing and showering.

  9. Sejanus says:

    @JKB: Let’s suppose that the government decided to deny recognition for marriages performed by the clergy of your religion… Would you then say that people married by your priest/rabbi/whatever are no longer married due to the lack of governmental recognition? Gay people gained the right to marry in 2003 when the supreme court invalidated sodomy laws. If two persons of the same gender decide to commit to each other and live together than that’s what makes them married. Although many LGBT rights advocates wouldn’t phrase it that way, their fight is not about the right to be married; it’s about the right not to be discriminated against on grounds of being in a same-sex marriage.

  10. swbarnes2 says:

    Jonathan Hopkins notes that, while couples of the same sex can marry at the West Point chapel, they’re treated much differently under the Defense of Marriage Act.

    Yes, it is radically unfair.

    Would the people you vote for, like Romney, be likely to craft policies to make it fairer? Or would they prefer to make things worse for gay people?

    Because you don’t get to claim the moral high ground if your votes make things worse.

  11. ptfe says:

    @JKB: “Unmarried heterosexual couples experience the same ‘benefits’ discrepancy because they are not married.” Except that this statement is patently false. On the one hand, you have a couple with no legal union; on the other hand, you have a couple with an otherwise identical legal union that is simply not recognized by the federal government — i.e. the couple has all the rights and privileges of a particular class within its own state, but it has no equal access to the rights and privileges afforded the identical class outside of those state boundaries. It’s the legal difference between contracting someone to paint your hallway for $100 and giving a friend $100 after they show up and paint your hallway: a wholly different relationship.

    So there would be a lot of housekeeping to permit benefits to be provided. The solution is simple, get Congress to clean it all up. Get Congress to recognize gay couples married under state law. Or actually, get the government out of marriage. Have civil unions that govern inheritance, and other benefits as well as divorce and leave marriage to religion.

    Oh nos! Housekeeping! When will the horror end?

    Really, though, the federal government is otherwise not involved in defining marriage. If there are any arcane examples of “wife” and “husband” being used (which I highly doubt, given that the spouse of a federal employee may be either a husband or a wife at this point), those could easily be taken out the same bill repealing DOMA. I’m pretty sure Representatives and Senators have people working for them who could find them.

    I also like how you break out in a mild sweat over the federal housekeeping that would need to be done but don’t bat an eye at the prospect of the federal government plus all the states and provinces (a) doing the identical housekeeping plus (b) replacing the word “marriage” on their respective governing books so the religious nutters could keep their “marriages” bigoted pure. Odds of that working out? 0 in N.

    But let’s not skip the vital difference, same sex spouses must accept their member spouse will share a room or bay, shower and otherwise be around others of their sexual preference while deployed 24/7. Unlike opposite sex spouse who at least know their spouse is gender separated in berthing and showering.

    Wow, bet they never thought of that! Check and mate!

    (I’m pretty sure that this isn’t even close to #1 on the list of Concerns a Prospectively Federally-Recognized Gay Husband Has For His Deployed Spouse.)

  12. HarvardLaw92 says:

    DOMA is before the court in this session, so this issue will be resolved (and likely in the affirmative) shortly.

  13. 11B40 says:

    Greetings:

    Gawd, it’s a crying shame that this country is not yet perfect for our sexual dysfunctionals. Maybe someday soon when President Obama evolves a bit more.

    Out here in the San Francisco Bay area, there was a short TV news report advising homosexual men traveling to New York to get vaccinated against meningitis for some reason or other. Anybody have any idea what that might have been about ???

  14. An Interested Party says:

    Gawd, it’s a crying shame that this country is not yet perfect for our sexual dysfunctionals.

    Well certainly gay people would be able to lead better lives if they didn’t have to deal with the policy preferences of homophobic bigots like you…

    Out here in the San Francisco Bay area…

    It’s fascinating that bigoted douchebags like Michael Savage and the writer of the words above actually choose to live in the San Francisco area…perhaps they are masochists who are gluttons for punishment…or maybe closet cases who enjoy the easy access…