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Same-Sex Spouses Excluded From Recent Military Rape Prevention Law

Aubrey Sarvis

One of the biggest issues left since the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is the unequal treatment of the family of lesbian and gay service members. Today, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network Executive Director and Army veteran Aubrey Sarvis called upon Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to take action with regards to this inequality.

Sarvis wrote to Panetta saying “The year that has passed since the Department of Defense said it would continue to study this issue should have been more than enough time for it to come to agree with the Comprehensive Review Working Group’s view that fairness and equality should be the order of the day when it comes to allowing service members to designate a person of their choosing for existing military benefits wherever there is not a restriction imposed by the Defense of Marriage Act. To date, they have not done that, and for service members affected by this, every day they delay matters to them and their families.”

Last August, SLDN informed Panetta of the benefits that could be conferred to lesbian and gay service members without going into conflict with the Defense of Marriage Act. Sarvis wrote today “Given this background, we were surprised to read the details of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program released last week. While we applaud your effort to expand this program to cover many more people in the military family, we are troubled that it continues this same sort of discrimination.”

The Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program fails to include the spouses and partners of lesbians and gays. Sarvis continued to say “The repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ while an historic victory for equality, has created two classes of service members in the U.S. military – those who receive all available benefits and support and those who don’t. Secretary Panetta has the clear authority, within the confines of the law, to make same-gender married couples and their families eligible to take part in some of the programs that are available to all other service members, even while the Defense of Marriage Act is still on the books.”

The SLDN has already filed litigation challenging DOMA.

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