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SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — A new policy in DOD schools allowing same-sex teaching couples to request joint job transfers will have little effect next school year.

Just one gay couple is among the 304 teachers who were granted transfers this fall by the Department of Defense Education Activity, according to figures released by the DOD.

By contrast, 11 heterosexual married couples were approved for joint transfers.

The transfers allow two teachers to stay together by moving them to new jobs in the same area. Gay teachers could apply for the first time this year through an agreement brokered by teacher unions and DODEA in February.

The policy edged DODEA toward expanding gay rights as the DOD wrestles with loosening policies on homosexuality, including a proposed repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

The same-sex transfer sent a message to teachers that “it was successful and yes, it can happen,” said Debra Degalis, a Pacific area coordinator for the Federal Education Association and DODEA employee who helps manage the transfer program.

DODEA approved the measure about one week before the transfer application deadline in early March, and it expires before the next round of teacher transfers in 2011, meaning DODEA and the unions must strike another deal to extend the benefit, or gay couples will no longer be eligible.

Also, gay couples were not allowed to use marriage certificates as proof of a relationship when applying. A version of the policy acknowledging gay marriages was rejected by the DOD because it conflicted with the 1992 Defense of Marriage Act.

Gay couples were instead required to sign affidavits saying they were in committed relationships.

Meanwhile, unmarried heterosexual teachers are not eligible for joint transfers, which are granted according to school needs and teacher seniority, the DOD said.

Those teachers are “eligible and have been eligible to apply for the transfer program like other DODEA employees but they may not link their transfer program applications for seniority purposes,” according to a written statement issued by DOD spokeswoman April Cunningham.

DODEA and DOD declined to grant an interview to Stars and Stripes this week to discuss this topic.

“It was my understanding that the Pentagon believed that marriage was already defined for heterosexual couples, so I am assuming the only exception that they wished to make was for same-sex couples,” Michael Priser, president of the Federal Education Association teachers union that brokered the policy, wrote in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes.


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