Perhaps more than logic or the morality of correcting a long-standing injustice, it was the individual stories of patriotic servicemembers cruelly and unjustifiably tossed out of the military for being gay that motivated many in repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” But with the legislative end of DADT, voices still impacted by the policy have been lost as lawmakers and LGBT advocates spar over how to implement the repeal.
After DADT was officially pronounced dead on Sept. 20, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decided to end the seven-year-long challenge by Log Cabin Republicans to find DADT unconstitutional so such legal discrimination could never be implemented or resurrected. LCR attorney Dan Woods, who is still pursuing the case, told the court that without smiting DADT with the hammer of the U.S. Constitution, LGBT servicemembers would still be second-class citizens, subject to the whims of political shenanigans.
And that’s what’s happening. Several Republican presidential candidates, including frontrunner Mitt Romney, have promised to reinstate DADT if elected. Meanwhile, anti-gay legislators such as California Rep. Buck McKeon, Chair of the House Armed Services Committee, are doing whatever they can to thwart implementation of the repeal. On Oct. 7, during a taping for the C-SPAN program Newsmakers, McKeon said he’d prefer to kill the entire Defense Authorization Bill for fiscal year 2012 than let a bill pass that doesn’t contain language preventing military chaplains from marrying same-sex couples since the Defense of Marriage Act is “the law of the land,” according to The Hill newspaper.
The Religious Right claims that allowing chaplains to perform gay marriages violates their “religious freedom,” even though the DADT Repeal Act does not require anyone to change their beliefs or perform marriage ceremonies.
The Forum on the Military Chaplaincy, a group led by retired chaplains and former servicemembers, responded immediately.
“Many chaplains—Episcopal, Lutheran, United Church of Christ and Unitarian Universalist Chaplains, among others—would be prevented from performing weddings or commitment ceremonies allowed by their denominations if Chairman McKeon gets his way,” said Chaplain (Col.) Paul Dodd, U.S. Army, Ret. “We stand for the rights of chaplains from all faiths to conduct services in accordance with that faith.”
“It seems there are those who want their own ‘religious freedom’ to discriminate against gays—but would deny the genuine religious freedom of others to conduct the ceremonies authorized by their faith,” said attorney Tom Carpenter, a former Marine Captain and Forum member.
DOMA looms large over all arguments, imposing a terrible and painful second-class citizenship on families of LGBT servicemembers.
U.S. Navy Petty Officer First Class Luz Bautista came out in uniform on Sept. 20 during a ceremony at the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center. She also came out as pregnant and in pain. Because of DOMA, she was being transferred to Illinois without her 6-year-old son and her partner, who was also stationed in San Diego. She said she expects to be separated for three years, and after she gives birth, she and her partner will somehow share custody.
Bautista, a career counselor, said she tried everything to keep her family intact, including contacting California Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s office. Feinstein is the author of the DOMA Repeal bill in the Senate.
Frontiers recently caught up with Bautista, who is now stationed in Great Lakes, Ill.
“My wife and my daughter came with me for two weeks to help me get settled,” Bautista wrote in an email. “Feinstein’s office has not gotten in touch with me, unfortunately. I feel as if I should just let go of all hope [of getting help] because now I am by myself in Illinois and my family is in San Diego. It was very depressing to leave my family behind. We drove together from San Diego to Illinois, and it took us three days. But those moments were priceless, compared to me not being with them at all—which was all I kept thinking on the drive.
“I now have a small apartment, and I have reported to work,” Bautista wrote. “I was also granted house-hunting leave so I can sign all documents and get settled down. I return to work on Oct. 13. I am now sort of settled. I had to do a lot of shopping for almost everything, because I didn’t have anything. I didn’t want to take my household property from San Diego and leave my wife and kid without things, so I had to buy everything again before I left San Diego and U-Haul it across the states first. It was a long journey without my family and with all new, strange property, and it made me feel like I was becoming someone else. It was a traumatic experience. I wish that on no one.
“I spoke to my new commanding officer about my being gay and having a military wife in San Diego and I explained to him that if spouse co-location becomes available for me, I will be putting in for it,” Bautista continued. “So far he is the only person I have told my situation to, because if there are more changes, I will be first to do it because I want to be with my family.”
“Luz’s situation is a clear example of how repeal of DADT allows our LGB servicemembers to be open, but not equal,” Carpenter told Frontiers.
DOMA and family issues are on the agenda at the first OutServe conference, Oct. 13-16. Please look for reports on FrontiersLA.com.