As the Supreme Court prepares to consider whether states must license and recognize same-sex marriage, the U.S. military takes substantial steps in changing LGBT rights in the military. Due partly to prior Supreme Court decisions, including the Windsor case that struck down parts of DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) in 2011, as well as the decision to eliminate the “don’t ask/don’t tell” (DADT) policy of the ’90s, the Pentagon has made dramatic progress toward equality in the military.
Pentagon Policy Changes in Record Time
Gay military members had served in virtual silence for decades as leaders struggled with acceptable policies to address the reality of LGBT individuals in the military. Many soldiers and their loved ones have now felt the joy of stepping out of second-class citizen status, now that relationships and family members no longer have to hide under the dubious protection of DADT and other prejudicial restrictions on gays in the military.
In what some have called record time considering the bureaucracy of the Pentagon, substantive policy changes are in place to grant full rights to family members of gay service members, who are now:
-Issued a military family ID card, just like all other service families
-Permitted to live on military installations in family housing
-Recognized as spouses at change of command ceremonies
-Eligible for family medical care at military facilities
-Granted the full range of benefits for family members of service members
Despite notable progress, there is more that must be done in order to eradicate remaining areas of second-class citizen status. Under Status of Force Agreements (SOFA), limitations persist on same-sex families serving in some countries, which limits service members access to some competitive assignments. Not everyone is happy with the changes in the Pentagon’s policy. Some military chaplains are battling the changes from within, working to deny religious services to LGBT military members under the guise of “religious liberty.” Despite all the progress, transgender men and women in the military must serve in silence, unaffected by progress in other areas.
Where Will Evangelicals Go?
Some Evangelical Christians are worried by the change in society’s attitude toward LGBT couples legal right to marry. Others see things different, noting that evangelicals are, by definition, focused on statements from the Bible and not legal definitions of relationships such as marriage. Some point out that their scriptures are clear on what a marriage is to them, regardless of changing legal or cultural definitions that expand marriage rights to LGBT couples.
Some voices from Christian conservatives predict that reaction from evangelicals will depend, in part, on how “gracious or vindictive the LGBT community is” in accepting the changes that flow from Supreme Court decisions and other laws recognizing gay marriages. Some conservative social pundits predict less of a “push-back” from the religious right if the gays and their allies tend toward a “live-and-let-live attitude” toward religious conservatives rather than an effort to “stamp out dissent” in the culture. For most LGBT individuals, a “live-and-let-live” attitude toward marriage relationship is precisely what they have been seeking: equality to marry whom they choose.
Studies indicate that in the past decade, support for same-sex marriage has more than doubled among white evangelicals, and rose among Catholics by more than 22 percent. As education and awareness of the issues regarding same-sex marriage become more widespread in the country, many people are beginning to realize that they are not threatened by extending marriage to all who desire it.
The national spokesperson for Evangelicals for Marriage Equality, Brandon Robertson, notes, “Christians are increasingly saying that they need to stand up for LGBT equality no matter what they believe theologically, and they are doing this not because they are American, but because they are followers of Christ.” Followers of all religions can develop an increased understanding of the social value of extending full marriage equality to all, because it is based upon good spiritual values of compassion and love.