Being a military spouse is challenging. When your spouse gets deployed, you are left alone, often with children, and often away from the support of family. When your spouse gets orders to move, you move, regardless of what that means for your personal life. As a military spouse, one of the things that provides support is the military community of resources. Help is made readily available in areas such as finance, food, clothing, counseling, and fellowship.
But for spouses of gay military members, the transitions and challenges can be much, much worse.
Nakisha Hardy spent the first nine months of her marriage deployed in Afghanistan. When she returned home, she and her spouse — like many other military couples — struggled to re-acclimate to life together. When First Lt. Hardy went to her Army’s posts chapel for help, she signed up for a marriage retreat designed to help couples with the tolls of deployment.
After arriving at the retreat, however, Hardy and her spouse were asked to leave.
“I felt hurt, humiliated,” said Lieutenant Hardy, 28. “These were people I had been deployed with. And they were telling me I can go to fight the war on terrorism with them, but I can’t attend a seminar with them to keep my marriage healthy.”
While gay marriage is legal in some states, it is not federally recognized, and therefore many of the military laws are not conducive to same-sex couples. The spouses of gay service members are currently not allowed to get a military identification card, which in essence bans them from any on-base activity and benefit, including medical and dental benefits. Without an ID card they cannot access base facilities (even if a spouse if stationed there), shop at the commissary or exchange, or even use recreational facilities such as pools, bowling alleys, gyms, or daycare facilities. Parents without ID cards cannot drop their children off at on-base schools.
Advocacy groups, including the American Military Partner Association and OutServe-SLDN, are pressing lawmakers and Pentagon officials to rectify the situation.
Meanwhile, military commanders are stuck. They are restricted to the terms that currently exist, and must sort through rules and regulations regarding what is and is not permissible.
While certain restrictions can only be lifted by the federal government, some restrictions do not need legislature to change. Military housing benefits, relocation benefits, and access to legal assistance and military IDs, for example, are all up to the Defense Department regulations that military officials could change.
Defense officials say they are considering whether to revise those regulations.
“The Department of Defense is conducting a deliberative and comprehensive review of the possibility of extending eligibility for benefits, when legally permitted, to same-sex domestic partners,” Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Christensen, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement.
“The benefits are being examined from a policy, fiscal, legal and feasibility perspective,” he said.
Do you think that gay military spouses should receive the same benefits as heterosexual spouses?