Military dragging feet on SecDef’s order giving gay troops leave to marry

The Pentagon is dragging its feet on following an order from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to give gay troops time off to get married, now that they can in 13 states and the District of Columbia.

The order went into effect in mid-August, but that hasn’t stopped many commanders in the military from trying to thwart it, according to the Los Angeles Times.

In a move that could only be called “dicky,” the Army, Navy and Air Force are all putting up roadblocks to obeying the Secretary of Defense’s order to give gay troops time off to go get married.

west-point-gay wedding

Specifically, the order says the following:

The policy sought to address a conundrum for the Pentagon: Though same-sex couples can now legally get benefits under federal law, many are stationed in states or countries where it is against the law to marry their partner.

To rectify that, members of the military stationed more than 100 miles from a jurisdiction where they can marry were promised up to seven days off if they were in the continental United States and up to 10 days leave if they were overseas.

In other words, straight military members can get married either in the foreign country they’re in, or at home in any jurisdiction.  Gay servicemembers can’t get married in most countries, nor in most of the US.  So if they’re stationed in a place where they can’t get married, they are permitted to get leave in order to get married.  Otherwise, they couldn’t get married at all, while their straight counterparts could.

Well.  It seems some folks in the military think the gays are asking for “special” rights, which apparently now includes the civil right to marriage.  So, they’re actively thwarting the Secretary of Defense’s orders.  Which is a rather scary thing to contemplate.  (What other orders of the Secretary don’t they obey?)

This commander in particular really encapsulates the problem:

Lt. Sheila McCabe, an Army air defense officer deployed to Kuwait, said her application to go home to get married was turned down by her battalion commander, who said he had never heard of the new leave policy. She says he told her she could take personal leave to go home.

McCabe said “many people” in her unit “had commented negatively” since the Pentagon announced the policy. “I actually have been told that ‘your situation shouldn’t make you special,'” she said.

He hadn’t heard about the policy?  How about you check, asshat, rather than disobey an order from the Secretary of Defense?  What other orders has this battalion commander never heard of that he doesn’t plan on obeying because it’s too much trouble to ask?

This anecdote was also rather telling:

Harper’s battalion commander, Lt. Col. Mark Raaker, refused, saying only emergency leave was being granted. “He said if leave is granted for me to be married then it’s not fair to heterosexuals,” Harper said.

Yeah, see, there’s the problem.  Either only emergency leave is granted, or it’s not fair to heterosexuals.  Which one is it?

If nobody is permitted leave that isn’t an emergency, then it’s also not fair to gay people who aren’t getting married, but want leave to visit their parents back home.  So why did the commander talk about fairness to heterosexuals?  That just doesn’t make sense if he was simply enforcing a rule about no leave that isn’t an emergency.  It sounds like Lt. Col. Raaker had a problem with Harper being gay, and with the Secretary of Defense himself.  It’s not Lt. Col. Raaker’s place to second-guess Secretary Hagel, and overrule the Secretary because Raaker things Hagel is being too nice to the gays.

Just like the southern states running roughshod over the Pentagon in their efforts to deny benefits the legally-wed spouses of gay service members, it seems that once again haters in the military are doing an end-run around the Secretary of Defense, and for some reason they appear to be getting away with it, yet again.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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