Military lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists can hardly wait for the Supreme Court to declare the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. According to a Politico story titled “For LGBT Troops, DOMA Ruling a Pocketbook Issue,” if the Supreme Court does not issue a sweeping ruling in their favor, these groups will pressure Congress to pass legislation authorizing marriage benefits for homosexual couples.
This suggests that if the courts or Congress abolish the act, which defines marriage as the bond of one man and one woman, a new class of potentially “entitled” beneficiaries will expect to draw funds from shrinking Defense Department family support accounts. The potential cost of expanding military medical Tricare expenditures, which have nearly tripled since 2001, could be enormous.
No one should be surprised. In 2010, activists and the Obama administration demanded that Congress repeal the 1993 law that was often called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The Center for Military Readiness predicted that repeal would impose new policies that should have been called “LGBT law” in the military, and that family status and benefits eventually would be extended to same-sex couples.
Then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates expressed concern about the possible cost of same-sex family benefits during his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee. In the rush to repeal during the lame-duck session, however, no one discussed specifics. Senators did not ask, and Mr. Gates did not tell.
Congress, unfortunately, trusted Defense Department officials and the Pentagon’s own Comprehensive Review Working Group, which kept promising DOMA would preclude same-sex marriage benefits. Buried in its November 2010 report, however, the working group conceded that repeal could open the door for new family entitlements. Focusing more on perceptions than costs, the working group conceded that if the Defense Department started to recognize and provide benefits to “committed” same-sex couples, it would be creating “a new inequity — between unmarried, committed same-sex couples and unmarried, committed opposite-sex couples.”
Full implications of this “new inequity” were disregarded, primarily because the Obama administration kept promising to respect DOMA. Still, some members of Congress remained nervous about the issue, so the repeal legislation included a clause mandating the act’s enforcement.
The Center for Military Readiness warned that such a measure would have little effect, but shortsighted lawmakers voted for repeal anyway. Having persuaded Congress to impose “LGBT law” on the military (without knowing what they were voting for), administration officials pocketed their ill-gotten gains and quickly moved to deliver on even more promises to the president’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender political base.
At the time, Pentagon training documents claimed that “[S]exual orientation would not be placed alongside race, color, religion, sex and national origin as a class under the Military Equal Opportunity Program.” A few weeks after the repeal bill passed, however, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. stopped defending DOMA in federal courts. The statement from the Justice Department on Feb. 23, 2011, contradicted the administration’s previous position on the appropriate standard of review: “[C]lassifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to a more heightened standard of scrutiny.”
In subsequent months, the Defense Department refused to comply with mandates to provide information to Congress on how the new partner policies would be implemented. Questions about marriage benefits were disingenuously dismissed with promises to enforce DOMA — the statute the administration targeted for destruction by the federal courts. Signaling bad faith in May 2012, the Army allowed a homosexual marriage ceremony in a dedicated chapel at Fort Polk, La., a state that does not recognize same-sex civil unions or marriages.
The constant dissembling and dereliction of duty to defend DOMA revved up the special-interest campaign to extend spousal benefits to same-sex couples as a constitutional civil right. The White House and Pentagon boosted the “Legalize Love” campaign during a series of June “LGBT Equality Month” events. On Feb. 10, just before President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union Address, the administration dropped another shoe. Showing little concern about scarce resources and declining funds available for family support, then-Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta announced that some marriage benefits — not including housing subsidies and access to medical care — would be extended to same-sex couples who sign a “Declaration of Domestic Partnership.” This is a costly gift to the left.
The Pentagon has yet to provide any estimate of unanticipated costs for same-sex marriage benefits that officials previously had denied. Mr. Panetta’s new domestic-partner policy deliberately created the “new inequity” that the Pentagon’s own Comprehensive Review Working Group had predicted and opposed in November 2010.
If unmarried, same-sex couples signing a “Declaration of Domestic Partnership” get special rights, status and benefits associated with marriage, how can the Defense Department not provide the same benefits to opposite-sex couples who are living together? Now that definitions don’t matter, Congress must deal with the consequences of “legalizing love” under “LGBT law.”
Elaine Donnelly is president of the Center for Military Readiness.