Group: Calif. ruling won’t change ‘don’t ask’
May 23, 2008
WASHINGTON — California may soon be recognizing same-sex marriages, but the military still isn’t, a homosexual advocacy group warned this week.
Members from the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a Washington D.C. lobbying group, are cautioning gay troops that getting married in California could end their military careers because of the "don’t ask, don’t tell" law still in effect.
"A lot of time folks can get caught up in the romance and the excitement of the moment," said Victor Maldonado, spokesman for the group. "We just don’t want them to lose sight of the practical realities of the situation."
Last week California’s top court ruled the state could not deny marriage rights to same-sex couples under the language of the state’s constitution.
The ruling effectively paves the way for California to become only the second state to allow homosexual couples to marry, along with Massachusetts. Several other states allow some type of domestic partnership benefits.
But those policies have no effect on the "don’t ask, don’t tell" law, said Defense Department spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Withington.
"This law requires the Department of Defense to separate from the armed forces members who engage in or attempt to engage in homosexual acts; state they are homosexual or bisexual; or marry or attempt to marry a person of the same biological sex," he said.
Maldonado said a state-approved same-sex marriage, a domestic partnership agreement, or any other similar arrangement can be used by military officials as evidence of homosexual behavior.
"We’re not in a position to tell people how to live their lives," he said. "But we want people to know this can become a tool in launching an investigation against them."
Retired Army Col. Stewart Bornhoft said for him and his partner, a retired sailor, the California court decision was "the most remarkable moment since we’ve been together."
But he added that if either of them were still in the military, they wouldn’t even discuss wedding plans, much less be making plans for later this summer.