WASHINGTON – The Human Rights Campaign called on the Pentagon to expeditiously carry out the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal implementation plan laid out today by Under Secretary Clifford Stanley and Gen. James Cartwright. It appears that training could begin in a matter of months, consistent with President Obama’s timeline commitment of months, not years. HRC also noted that some issues remain unaddressed that will impact the lives of gay, lesbian and bisexual service members including benefits parity and equal opportunity protections.
“As the Working Group study clearly stated, there are few hurdles to implementation of open service and the best way to ensure a smooth transition is to move expeditiously,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “While this implementation plan is a step in the right direction, it is critical that the Department address benefits issues and non-discrimination protections so that all service members are treated equally.”
On benefits issues, today’s memo does not go far enough in calling for parity in benefits that could be accomplished through revised regulations that add same-sex committed partners to the definitions of “dependent,” “family member,” or other similar terms. Such a step would be consistent with President Obama’s June 2009 memorandum that all federal agencies take steps to extend benefits equally to lesbian and gay employees, where permitted by law.
The memo also states that the Military Equal Opportunity (MEO) program will not be amended to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Including sexual orientation in MEO program would ensure that service members have an avenue to address discrimination complaints outside the chain-of-command, which has been essential in successful equal opportunity policies for other types of discrimination including race, religion, sex and national origin.
“Equalizing benefits and non-discrimination programs will ensure that gay, lesbian and bisexual service not be seen as different from their colleagues but rather on an level playing field,” added Solmonese. “They are prepared to fight and die for their country and deserve nothing less that the benefits and protections afforded to every member of our armed forces.”
The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.