I haven't talked about the DADT repeal here, which will allow LGB service members to be open about who they are. (Transgenders are in a different category, militarily speaking, and are not covered by DADT nor by the repeal).
As the NY Times noted, the Defense Dept plan for repeal (PDF) was released at the same time as the survey of the troops, to little attention. It makes it clear that there is a plan for implementation that has thought through the common concerns. The theme is Leadership-Professionalism-Respect.
Regarding religious freedom:
Service members are not expected to change their personal religious or moral beliefs; however, they are expected to treat all others with dignity and respect, consistent with the core values that already exist within each Service.Those who disagree:
Service members do not have the right to refuse duty or duty assignments based on a moral objection to another’s sexual orientation.
Service members remain obligated to follow orders that involve interaction with others who are gay or lesbian, even if an unwillingness to do so is based on strong, sincerely held, moral or religious beliefs. As expressed in the Manual for Courts-Martial regarding a Service member’s obligation to obey orders: “the dictates of a person’s conscience, religion, or personal philosophy cannot justify or excuse the disobedience of an otherwise lawful order .”
The views and beliefs of those who are opposed to “open” service by gays and lesbians on well-founded moral or religious grounds are not being rejected, and leaders have not turned their backs on them. We do not expect individual Service members to change their personal religious or moral beliefs about homosexuality, but we do expect every Service member to treat all others with dignity and respect, consistent with the core values that already exist in each Service.Chaplains:
The Service should reiterate the principle that chaplains, in the context of their religious ministry, are not required to take actions inconsistent with their religious beliefs, but must continue to care for all Service members, and that evaluation, promotion, and assignment of chaplains will remain consistent with these long-standing principles.What about sexual behavior?
Service standards of conduct must be sexual orientation neutral. All members are responsible for upholding and maintaining the high standards of the U S military at all times and in all places.And those benefits...
The Defense of Marriage Act and current benefit laws do not allow the Department of Defense to extend many key benefits—including dependent medical coverage, dependent-rate BAH, and dependent-based travel and transportation allowances—to a Service member in a relationship with a same-sex partner …
For the time being, all Service members not in a Federally-recognized marriage will be treated as “single” for the purposes of benefits eligibility. The Department of Defense is studying ways to extend additional benefits to Service members to improve personal readiness, especially during deployments and other stressful times.
Of course, the backlash has begun:
- Mitch McConnell tried to block the repeal with a poison amendment to the Defense bill.
- A Virginia state Delegate wants to bar gays from the Virginia National Guard (what do we expect from the State of Hate?)
- And several antigay groups pledge to repeal the repeal.
As many pundits have noted, having gays serve openly in the military will scuttle many of the arguments the opposition has used to keep us demonized as "the other." It's a big crack in the wall of "normalcy." And it's hard to see how DOMA can last if a brave lieutenant can't have benefits for his legal husband.
Still, expect the shrill hysteria to get louder before it gets better. And of course, the repeal may be signed, but DADT is still the law until it is "certified" properly. That could take months or longer. LGB servicemembers will continue in the closet till then.
Photo from NY Times