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OutServe Magazine | October 20, 2014

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From the Director: DOMA’s DAMAGE

From the Director: DOMA’s DAMAGE
Allyson Robinson

On Sep. 20, 2011, tens of thousands of gay and lesbian service members awoke to a new reality: Their continued service in defense of this country would no longer be contingent on a willingness to compromise their integrity and lie about who they were. It was an enormous accomplishment, one that was decades in the making. But the gains of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) were, unfortunately, limited.

Today it is legal for gay and lesbian service members to serve openly. They can be “out” — but they are anything but equal. It has been more than two years since President Barack Obama signed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010, and yet gay and lesbian service members still do not receive equal treatment, equal protection or equal support for their equal service.

Honor All Military Families

Much of this is the fault of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage for federal purposes as the “union between one man and one woman.” As much as military leaders at all levels may wish to treat the troops under their command with equity, they are forced by federal law to discriminate. As a result, gay and lesbian service members are denied access to critical benefits and meaningful support programs the services provide to help families face the unique challenges of military life.

This denial weakens the force itself. Our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen perform best when they know that their loved ones are well cared for and will continue to be well cared for even if they are asked to make the ultimate sacrifice. Today, gay and lesbian service members can take no such comfort. DOMA categorically denies it to them.

But while we’ve known these inequities exist, little has been done until now to quantify the toll this disparity takes on gay and lesbian service members and their families, and how that discrimination undermines the military mission.

A new joint effort of the Center for American Progress and OutServe-SLDN explores exactly how DOMA wreaks havoc on the lives of gay and lesbian service members and their families. The report places in stark relief the daily struggles and near-constant indignities that result when a federal law insists on creating two classes of service members. It demonstrates precisely how gay and lesbian service members and their families—and the military as a whole—are weakened by the law.

Service members and commanders in the field have been telling this story in bits and pieces since DADT repeal took effect more than a year ago. They know how DOMA hurts them and their families, and they can see how the law harms their units and their commands. We’ve seen how this is playing out on the ground. With this report, we have the bigger picture, and the story it tells is just as indicting. DOMA is not just unfair, nor is it merely demeaning—though it is certainly both. It is an issue of national security, and it must be repealed.

To view the full report, visit

Allyson D. Robinson is a West Point graduate, former Army officer, and former Baptist minister. She was appointed the first Executive Director of the newly combined organization, OutServe-SLDN, in Oct. 2012.