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Military orders and gay families

Deployment, transfers, and long stretches away from loved ones are part and parcel of military service. Families usually follow the service member to their new posting, dutifully if not enthusiastically. But what happens when the family is made up of two same-sex partners? Bringing a same-sex partner to a new posting overseas is sometimes impossible because of local laws. One columnist says the military is using those laws and the Defense of Marriage Act to deliberately split up gay couples.

Gay rights advocate and U.S. Navy veteran Brian Stone says the military uses the billeting system, the process of determining where a service member will serve, to disrupt same-sex families. Instead of posting them in the United States or other gay-friendly countries, one partner may be sent to Japan, Germany, Singapore or Italy where strict immigration laws forbid visas for same-sex partners. Stone says the power to keep gay couples together lies with military policy and people called "detailers," bureaucrats who match personnel requests with service members. He wants the Department of Defense to make keeping same-sex couples together a priority as a humanitarian gesture and as a retention tool that keeps gay service members serving.

Stone says people opposed to his position cite "equal protection" as a reason not to do it. Opponents say married heterosexual couples are not give special preference in billeting, so neither should gays. Stone's argument is that heterosexual couples are paid, albeit indirectly, for getting married and having children, so they are already getting a benefit not available to gays.

The repeal of the Don't Ask Don't Tell law made life a little easier for gay service members but Stone wants Congress to do more. He says that unless the Defense Department takes a more compassionate approach to billeting same-sex couples, then Congress should write and pass legislation forcing DoD to do so.

Source: Huffington Post, "Ordered apart: How military bureaucrats separate gay families," Brian Stone, Oct. 16, 2012

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