Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) this week released a legal guide for LGBTs to help them navigate the landscape of the post-DADT repeal environment.
The guide, “Freedom to Serve: The Definitive Guide to LGBT Military Service,” is designed to offer a comprehensive overview of laws and policies relating to military service that may be of interest to LGBT servicemembers, as well as their friends and family.
“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.
The manual outlines key areas of interest such as how to upgrade DADT discharges, what impact the repeal has on veterans’ benefits, general outlines on standards of conduct, and also what spousal benefits are and aren’t available due to the Defense of Marriage Act restrictions. Benefits that same-sex spouse families may miss out on include health insurance, higher housing allowances, on-base housing, survival benefits and several others.
There are also instructions dealing with how those discharged under DADT can have their discharge paperwork amended to change negative re-entry codes and therefore not have to carry that stigma when applying for civilian jobs.
A portion of the guide is also given over to Transgender Service. Given that DADT repeal did nothing to improve the situation of trans servicemembers who must keep their identity secret or face discharge, the guide instructs on how servicemembers may continue to serve while remaining in the closet, as well as on the confidential help available should they need it.
“The work of advancing military equality marches forward after repeal. At SLDN, we will fight alongside those who may face harassment or discrimination as we oversee implementation; when necessary and timely, litigate in the courts to bring about full LGBT equality in America’s military; advocate for legally married service members to receive the same benefits as their straight counterparts; and assist veterans to correct or upgrade their discharge paperwork,” said Sarvis.
It is important to stress that until repeal certification goes into effect on September 20, it is still not advisable for gay and lesbian servicemembers to come out.