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Post-“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”: SLDN Stays Relevant in the Fight

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Servicemember's Legal Defense Network

One of my favorite movies of all time, Kill Bill (vol 2) has a scene where one of the main characters is facing the demise of her nemesis. One of her comrades approaches her with the following question:

“They say the number one killer of old people is retirement. People got ‘em a job to do, they tend to live a little longer so they can do it. I’ve always figured warriors and their enemies share the same relationship. So, now you ain’t gonna hafta face your enemy on the battlefield no more, which “R” are you filled with: Relief or Regret?”

Now that the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is only days away, I can only imagine there are some people who have worked so hard to see its end, that they must be feeling one of these two “R” words. When I think of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), a different “R” word comes to mind: “Relevance”

For well over a decade, SLDN has been offering legal counseling and representation for servicemembers facing discharge under DADT, while advocating politically for the equal rights of LGBT patriots. Even though DADT is in its final days, those who work for SLDN still have their work cut out for them. The work they do is just as “R”elevant in the fight for equality as it was when they first started.

Currently they are calling on President Obama to sign an Executive Order which will give gay and lesbian service members who face harassment and discrimination a place to go outside the chain of command.  This is important because sometimes the problem exists within the chain. They have even created a petition which you can sign in an attempt to get the President to approve the Executive Order.

SLDN’s end goal is to help achieve equality across the board for LGBT troops. As it stands now, there are disparities between the benefits offered to straight, married couples and legally married LGBT couples within the military after the repeal of DADT. Let me give you a few examples.

Since I still pay my taxes to my home state of Massachusetts (a state where gay marriage is legal) and am still considered a permanent resident of the state, I can get married to a same-sex partner. Unfortunately, the military will not recognize this marriage, so if I was put into housing on base, my husband would be denied the privilege of getting a military dependent’s ID card, and would not be able to come and go as he pleases to and from base.

My husband would also be denied the the medical care services which are extended to military dependents. Since I move around a lot, every time I was reassigned to a new location, I would be forced to pay out of my own pocket for my husband to move with me.  Sadly, he would also be denied health care benefits.

These are the types of remaining inequities that SLDN and other organizations like it will continue to work to rectify post DADT repeal. And it won’t necessarily be an easy fight or be resolved quickly.  That’s why we need them – and their track record for getting results – around for a long time to come.

They will also continue to work with veterans who were discharged under DADT. The discharge paperwork of many of those who have been removed from their service for being gay makes finding a job nearly impossible in the civilian sector.  SLDN is working with them – one veteran at a time – to correct and upgrade their discharge characterizations.

In their own words, “SLDN will remain on the front lines until full equality is achieved for all LGBT patriots.” I believe we all have a way to go before that happens, but it’s comforting to know there are people out there who still have my back!

- Officer X is a young, gay military officer who is currently serving on active duty despite the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on open service. He is a pilot and regularly flies throughout the world both in and out of combat. His views are his alone and do not reflect the opinions of the U.S. military, its branches, or any organization. Follow him on Twitter @TIMEOfficerX or email him TIMEOfficerX@gmail.com

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