Just days after the Pentagon held its
first-ever Gay Pride event, a congressman has introduced a measure
which would extend protections to the spouses of gay service members.
Washington state Rep. Adam Smith, the
ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee, has introduced
a bill which would extend the definition of “spouse” to include
gay couples in areas of the U.S. Code relating to recognition,
support and protections for married service members and veterans.
Smith said the Military Spouses Equal
Treatment Act of 2012 was designed to “ensure equality for military
and veteran benefits for all military spouses.”
“While the repeal of 'Don't Ask,
Don't Tell' was a tremendous step forward, there is more that can be
done to ensure that the rights of all of our services members and
their spouse, regardless of whether they are of the same-sex or
opposite-sex as the service member, are protected,” said Smith.
“What this bill does is simple: if veterans or service members have
a spouse of the same-sex, then their spouse will be afforded the same
benefits as their heterosexual counterparts. Spouses of service
members should not be prevented from receiving the benefits they have
earned simply because they are the same sex as their partner. This
discriminatory practice must come to an end.”
Gay rights advocates cheered the move.
“With ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’
off the books, most Americans think our troops are serving freely and
fairly alongside each other, but this is not the case. Federal law
still discriminates against married gay and lesbian service members,
veterans, and their families by denying them crucial protections and
creating two classes of service members in our armed forces. This
legislation would bridge the gap in our military and treat gay and
lesbian service members, who are rendering the same sacrifices and
taking the same risks, with fairness, dignity, and respect,” Evan
Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, said in a
“Ranking Member Smith has recognized
with the introduction of this legislation today that 'Don't Ask,
Don't Tell' repeal – while a monumental achievement for gay and
lesbian service members and all Americans – does not finish the job
of ensuring full equality for these brave patriots and their
families,” said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Servicemembers
Legal Defense Network (SLDN).