With DADT done, gay rights groups shift focus
Published: January 30, 2012
WASHINGTON — “Don’t ask, don’t tell” was repealed last September, but gay rights groups say they still face a series of fights to define equality in the military for years to come.
Late last week, Kansas Republican Rep. Tim Huelskamp introduced new legislation to “codify protections of religious liberty of chaplains and servicemembers” in the wake of the “don’t ask, don’t tell repeal.” The measure states that chaplains cannot be required to perform a same-sex marriage if they object to the union, and that military facilities cannot be used for any such ceremony.
The proposal mirrors amendment language Huelskamp unsuccessfully introduced last summer. In a statement, the congressman said that “military installations exist to carry out the national defense of our nation, not to facilitate a narrow social agenda.”
But repeal advocates call the measure another attempt to intimidate and marginalize openly gay troops. “No chaplain today is being required or pressured to marry anyone, straight or gay,” said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. “The bill's ban on use of military facilities and chaplains officiating at ceremonies for gay and lesbian service members is nothing more than plain, old-fashion discrimination.”
The measure will likely be a key personnel policy fight in Congress’ upcoming budget debates, along with military benefits for same-sex couples. Last week, a coalition of rights groups announced they’ll hold a summit on the rights of same-sex couples in the military this May, as part of a broader effort to push for housing, health care and other benefits for the partners of gay troops.
Several organizations are also pushing for open service for transgendered troops as well. On Monday, the pro-repeal group OutServe profiled six transgendered troops and veterans in their bimonthly advocacy magazine, and called the issue of transgender service “The next DADT.”
Last fall’s repeal only covered rules regarding gay servicemembers, and not individuals who identify themselves transgender troops.