A prominent gay advocacy group has issued a five-point manifesto of new rights it wants from the U.S. military since the Sept. 20 repeal of the longtime ban on open homosexuals in the ranks.
The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) already has stated that it wants benefits for the partners of gay troops as well as for President Obama to lift the ban on “transgenders” serving openly. Its manifesto, “Beyond Repeal,” lists more goals.
For one, it wants the Pentagon to pave the way for veterans discharged under the 1993 policy, known as “don’t ask, don’t tell,” to be able to re-enter the service “if they meet the qualifications for rejoining.”
The Pentagon, at a time when all four services are looking to cut personnel, has said that such people do not have an automatic right to join and must start the process with a military recruiter.
SLDN is warning that former members may file federal lawsuits if the military does not give them their exact former positions at time of their discharge.
It also is urging the military to upgrade discharges for those kicked out under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy or previous bans imposed by regulations.
On another front, the group has launched a petition drive calling on Mr. Obama to issue an executive order outlawing discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
On transgenders, which include transsexuals and cross-dressers, the manifesto wants the Pentagon to strike the instruction that bans them for medical reasons.
“Transgender service members who are thinking about becoming more public or who begin to transition while in the military should be aware of the difficulties in doing so,” the group says in an information paper.
Of the new manifesto, Robert Maginnis, a retired Army officer and analyst at the Family Research Council, said: “No surprises. They are using the military as a platform to advance their radical agenda.
“The agenda hasn’t changed much. What has changed is the broader cultural acceptance of homosexuality. Ultimately, they want normalization of homosexuality. The military is a major platform for pushing that agenda,” Mr. Maginnis said.
The Pentagon has delivered the gay-rights movement another victory since lifting the ban on Sept. 20: Clifford Stanley, undersecretary of defense for personnel, signed guidance that allows military chaplains to marry gay couples.
His memo says chaplains may “participate in or officiate any private ceremony, whether on or off a military installation.”
Chaplains may not marry gays in states that ban such marriages, and the Pentagon is not forcing chaplains to marry same-sex couples.
Military training slides on how repeal would work state: “Chaplains will continue to have freedom to practice their religion according to the tenets of their faith. In the context of their religious ministry, chaplains are not required to take actions that are inconsistent with their religious beliefs (e.g., altering the content of sermons or religious counseling, sharing a pulpit with other chaplains, or modifying forms of prayer or worship).”
Aubrey Sarvis, SLDN’s executive director, said the new guidance “strikes the right balance between respecting the faith traditions of chaplains and affording all service members the same rights under current law. This is another logical step in the direction of full equality for gay and lesbian service members, and we hope the department will continue to move down that path.”
The Pentagon is not providing partner benefits, such as housing, citing the federal Defense of Marriage Act, now being challenged in court. Signed by President Clinton, it defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
A Pentagon spokeswoman said the department has no information on how many gay service members have come out since Sept. 20.