On Thursday, Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), top ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, proposed legislation that would extend benefits to same sex partners of military service members. According to the blog Queerty.com, HB 6406, the Military Spouses Equal Treatment Act (.pdf) would enable same sex spouses and partners of military personnel and veterans to “obtain essential benefits, including insurance, housing allowances and survivor benefits.”
Evan Wolfson, founder and president of the group Freedom to Marry said, ““With ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ off the books, most Americans think our troops are serving freely and fairly alongside each other, but this is not the case. Federal law still discriminates against married gay and lesbian service members, veterans, and their families by denying them crucial protections and creating two classes of service members in our armed forces. This legislation would bridge the gap in our military and treat gay and lesbian service members, who are rendering the same sacrifices and taking the same risks, with fairness, dignity, and respect.”
Department of Defense General Counsel Jeh Johnson said, ““The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell exposes certain inequalities between similarly situated couples in the military community. This troubles many of our leaders.”
The new bill would impact Titles 10, 32 and 38 to the U.S. Code, which were challenged in the Service Members Legal Defense Network’s lawsuit, McLaughlin v. U.S..
The Service Members Legal Defense Network (SLDN) is “a non-partisan, non-profit, legal services, watchdog and policy organization dedicated to bringing about full LGBT equality to America’s military and ending all forms of discrimination and harassment of military personnel on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.”
SLDN executive director Aubrey Sarvis told Queerty, “Our nation’s senior military leaders and commanders on the ground are increasingly uncomfortable with administering two classes of recognition, support and benefits for our nation’s service members – one for straight service members and a different one for their gay and lesbian peers. There cannot be two classes of service members, and this legislation addresses that effectively.”
(image via the White House’s Flickr Photostream)