SPARTA Calls SECDEF Omission a "Slap in the Face"
The Secretary of Defense spoke at today’s Pentagon event commemorating LGBT Pride Month, but failed to mention transgender military service, despite mounting support for change to the decades-old policies.
The U.S. Army announced today it is elevating authority to discharge transgender service members to the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Manpower and Reserve Affairs), the highest level at which that authority has ever been reserved. Prior to today’s announcement, local unit commanders were authorized to approve transgender soldiers’ separation orders.
One day after Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter indicated support for ending the Defense Department’s de facto ban on transgender military service, the White House expressed agreement in a statement from White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest.
Five days after being sworn in as Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter today opened the door to a review of DoD’s regulations on transgender military service in his first on-the-record comments on the issue. Linking it to recruiting and retaining the best candidates for military service, Carter told service members in Afghanistan, “I don’t think anything but their suitability for service should preclude them [from serving].” SPARTA members currently serving in Afghanistan were on hand to hear Carter’s remarks.
Today, the LGBT military organization SPART*A called the addition of sexual orientation as an enumerated class to the Department of Defense Human Goals Charter "a symbolic gesture" and cautioned that lesbian and gay service members still lack sufficient protections against discrimination.
The LGBT military organization SPART*A issued a statement thanking Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel for his comments tonight calling for state-run National Guard Bureaus to recognize the spouses of military service members in line with Department of Defense policy. A number of states in which same-sex marriage is not recognized have refused to issue the appropriate documentation to the spouses of their National Guard soldiers and airmen.
SPART*A is proud to announce Allyson Robinson as the newest member of its Advisory Board. Ms. Robinson brings much to the table with experience ranging from LGBT advocacy to her own military service.
While Secretary Shinseki chose to follow the letter of the law, it is clear that Title 38 is not in line with the values of the American people and other national agencies currently changing their policies to grant benefits for same-sex married couples. After the Supreme Court's ruling on DOMA in Windsor, the VA would have been forgiven for following suit in ensuring all married LGBT veterans are entitled to the same benefits as their heterosexual counterparts. Judge Marshall's summary judgment should be a catalyst for the VA to fall immediately in line with the spirit and intent of Windsor in not only granting benefits, but also following the IRS and DOD in using the "rule of celebration" to recognize all legal marriages, regardless of whether the veteran's state of residence does so.
Washington, D.C., August 28, 2013 – SPART*A, an organization of LGBT service members, their families, and veterans, formally announced its decision today to join in a partnership with a major organization helping same-sex military families, the Military Partners and Families Coalition (MPFC), allowing both organizations to help one another through access to common resources, education, and networking opportunities while advancing equality for LGBT service members, their families, and veterans.
“The Department of Defense plan for expanding benefits for same-sex couples and their families indicates some progress toward equality, but falls short. It’s clear that lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members and their families continue to face the significant challenges of inequality, including inconsistent access to marriage equality across the country. The proposed policy recognizes same-sex marriages, but also places an additional burden on members living in states where marriage equality is prohibited. These service members will be required to obtain a legal marriage available only in a limited number of states and must pay for the related travel costs out of pocket. This highlights the continuous harm done to LGB military families by marriage inequality. SPART*A strongly urges the Pentagon to continuously review benefit policies and enact the changes necessary to ensure fairness and equality for all service members as soon as possible.”
“The Advisory Board members are leaders in their respective communities and we are excited to work with them,” said SPART*A Board of Directors Co-Chair Tania Dunbar. “We are honored to have them join us in our fight to ensure equal opportunity for LGBT service members, veterans, and their families.”
A former Sixth Army Soldier of the Year and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal activist announced today his endorsement of the LGBT military organization SPART*A—Service members, Partners and Allies for Respect and Tolerance for All, which was launched earlier this week by actively serving LGBT service members and veterans.
This announces the formation of Service members, Partners, and Allies for Respect and Tolerance for All (SPART*A), a group of LGBT people and allies who are currently serving or have served in the military, and our families. We are a membership organization, built by, for, and with members from all parts of our community.
Two years ago today, we marked a significant milestone in the march towards full LGBT military equality. The decades-old “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy had finally been repealed, ensuring no service members would be discharged because of their sexual orientation. We can serve openly, honestly, and without reproach for being who we are.
Twelve years ago today, a way of life was disrupted by wanton terrorist attacks, and a nation became a target because of its ideologies. A malicious group of people, fundamentalist in their desire to destroy the hope and fortune of the United States, unleashed a coordinated attack unseen since Pearl Harbor. It claimed just as many lives while achieving a similar result – the beacon of strength, freedom, and prosperity lit the world ablaze in calculated vengeance to right the ultimate of acts.
Our National Guard brothers and sisters have made sacrifices in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in service during natural disasters and state emergencies. The recent decision by Texas Military Forces (TXMF) to redirect its state service members with same-sex spouses to federal installations for enrollment in DEERS (Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System) isn't a mere inconvenience, it is a blatant act of state-sanctioned discrimination against those who serve and their families. SPART*A Co-Chair Jeremy Johnson said this problem must be resolved immediately.
Manzella came out publicly in 2007, speaking on CBS’s 60 Minutes in protest of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy. He was the first openly gay service member on active duty to speak to the press from a war zone. After his discharge under DADT, he continued to work with Servicemembers Legal Defense Network to end the discriminatory policy.
On the issue of Pvt Chelsea Manning:
August 23, 2013 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Contact: Mark Mazzone, Deputy Communications Director, SPART*A firstname.lastname@example.org or 910.431.5207 SPART*A Issues Statement Regarding Private Manning: As service members and veterans, we deplore the crimes of Private Manning. Many of our members are transgender, and are serving or have served honorably; they include decorated combat veterans, pilots, Army Rangers, Academy grads, submariners, and commanders. Private Chelsea Manning does not represent us. That said, every American, every human being, deserves the basic dignity of their gender identity. Manning, like every prisoner, should be treated with decency, protected from violence, and granted appropriate and necessary medical care while she serves her sentence.