SLDN Releases Guide for LGBT Service Members, Veterans, Recruits, and Their Families

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network has released a comprehensive legal guide designed to help service members, veterans, recruits, and their families navigate the post-DADT environment.

Sldn It is available as a downloadable PDF HERE.

Writes SLDN:

“The information contained in this legal guide will help service members, prospective service members, their families, and friends make informed decisions about how to serve successfully as we move beyond ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ It will also assist them in understanding how to protect themselves when necessary and how to respond if they are targeted in any way for their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity,” said SLDN Legal Director David McKean.

“As has been our core mission since the founding of SLDN, we stand ready to represent and defend LGBT service members whenever the need arises, and our new online site reflects that ongoing commitment, while providing the most up-to-date and relevant information possible for those serving our country and those who support them,” said Army Veteran and SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis.

In addition to outlining SLDN’s legal services, the new guide and web site cover a myriad of issues including standards of conduct, benefits for spouses and families of service members, discharge upgrades, and veterans benefits. The new guidance becomes effective upon repeal of DADT on Tuesday, September 20, 2011. Until then, those seeking information or assistance should consult the SLDN Survival Guide, outlining issues related to serving under DADT.

Writes Andrea Stone of the guide in the HuffPost:

A recurring theme is how service members who marry their same-sex partners in the six states and the District of Columbia where gay marriage is legal are not eligible for all the benefits given to opposite-sex couples because the federal government forbids recognition under the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The banned benefits for spouses includes health insurance, family separation allowances, higher housing allowances and surviving spouse benefits.

The guide notes at least one "advantage" over straight married service members: "Because same-sex marriages are not recognized under DOMA, a service member who is married to a same-sex partner would not be subject to adultery charges for having extramarital sex with another 'unmarried' person."

In a section on "Transgender Service," which will still be banned after repeal, the guide offers "tips for serving in the closet."

The group has also relaunched its website, gearing it toward a post-DADT environment. Sarvis said that the group will continue to fight for equality of all troops.


  1. says

    Of what I’ve had time to read so far, the guide appears excellent in most ways. BUT in at least one crucial area it is only adding to the confusion and misinformation appearing again and again in both gay and mainstream media that serves, unintentionally, to EMPOWER Pentagon bigots.

    One speaks specifically of what is behind the Pentagon’s stated intention to deny gay couples access to “military family housing” or MFH. First, the guide contradicts itself to a degree, which one assumes is the result of time for adequate proofreading being overcome by the eagerness to publish. Fortunately, at least the Internet PDF version can be easily corrected which I, respectfully, urge them to do at once.

    In short, at points, the guide wrongly asserts that MFH access is explicitly banned by DOMA, e.g., “DOMA prevents the military from recognizing same-sex spouses as dependents of service members, so Military Family Housing (MFH) and dependent-rate BAH is generally unavailable to same-sex couples unless they have children.” But, at others, it accurately observes, if still not sufficiently clear, that it does not.

    The latter is unequivocally conceded in the Pentagon’s “Report of the Comprehensive Review of the Issues Associated with the Repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’.” Quote, emphasis mine:

    “A third category of benefits are those THAT ARE NOT STATUTORILY PROHIBITED, but that current REGULATIONS do not extend to same-sex partners. With regard to this category, the Department of Defense and the services HAVE THE REGULATORY FLEXIBILITY TO REVISE AND REDEFINE THE ELIGIBLE BENEFICIARIES TO INCLUDE SAME-SEX PARTNERS. … Military family housing is another prominent benefit IN THIS CATEGORY. However, we do not recommend at this time that military family housing BE included in the benefits eligible for this member-designated approach. Permitting a Service member to qualify for military family housing, simply by designating whomever he or she chooses as a ‘dependent’, is problematic. Military family housing is a limited resource and complicated to administer, and a system of member designation would create occasions for abuse and unfairness.” [By “unfairness” they mean to unmarried straight couples currently denied MFH. Absurd, of course, on its face for the fact that all straight couples have the option of federally recognized, legal marriage.]

    TRANSLATION: NOTHING related to DOMA prevents the Pentagon from giving gay couples, with or without children, access to MFH—they’re simply refusing to. Yes, we must press for repeal of DOMA, but as that is going to be a long and difficult struggle—and would not change this POLICY, per se, in any case—it is vital to make clear to gay and lesbian service members and our Community at large that we need not wait either legally or strategically for that regarding MFH and other partner benefits being ARBITRARILY denied. Rather such legally possible changes should be added to that list of PREMEDITATED acts of discrimination SLDN has asked the President to forbid by Executive Order.

    In another area, while, perhaps, experiences of recent SLDN clients suggest otherwise, the guide’s section on “sodomy” contradicts the DoD’s current official approach as explained in pre-repeal implementation “training” of all the troops. Quoting from their materials, with emphasis theirs:

    “Sodomy under the proposed change to Article 125 of the UCMJ may be punishable if it is WITHOUT consent (forcible). In light of decisions by the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, private acts of sodomy between consenting adults, regardless of their sex, are NOT punishable—absent factors unique to the military environment (such as a senior-subordinate relationship or other circumstance adverse to good order and discipline).”

    It certainly isn’t inappropriate to note that gays still have some technical vulnerability until Article 125 is repealed, but except for the presence of exacerbating factors [which the guide does mention] creating what attorneys have come to refer to as “prejudicial sodomy,” “NOT punishable” is “NOT punishable.”

    Unfortunately, there is the repetition of the sad specter of their acting like frightened deer. While taking far longer than it should have—by decades—repeal legislation only finally happened because of the courage of a line of gay and lesbian service members who purposely outed themselves to put a face on the ban. But instead of urging those serving today to stand openly proud in the sunlight at a time when even the ridiculous investigations that have been going on since December are both by court order and common sense over, they are still screeching “Run, Bambi Run!”

    The survival guides SLDN has published over the years have been indispensable, in both practical and legal/social change terms. Once corrected, this one can be, too. For not only is knowledge power, but we are going to need as much of both as we can muster when the premeditated denial of inclusion of gay and lesbian service members under the Military Equal Opportunity Program and of MFH access, et al., demonstrate that, despite disingenuous rhetoric to the contrary, recalcitrant homophobes in the Pentagon are intent upon obstructing our first class citizenship as much and as long as possible.

  2. bill johnson says

    I serve in a Military police unit and I came out this past week to a bunch of soldiers in my unit. I can say that the end to don’t ask don’t tell is about as anti-climatic as it can possibly be. Everyone I came out to was completely cool with it and one of the guys who is higher ranking and one of the toughest guys in the unit even said that if anyone gave me any trouble over it, I should let him know so he can take care of it. But it really wasn’t a big deal at all and the Military police is a combat MOS. This guide to open service is nice but I think that most people will find the transition to not be a problem at all.

  3. TruthSeeker_Too says

    Congratulations, Bill and good luck.
    Thanks for serving and protecting our country.