The Spousal Diaspora, Ctd

A reader writes:

Kudos on following up on this from the perspective of the impact that DOMA has on couples with differing citizenships.  However, have you considered the impact on military same-sex couples as well?

Military spouses face enormous challenges and pressures that very often go unrecognized.  Of course, there's the worry and uncertainty when your husband or wife is deployed to a combat zone overseas.  But even when your spouse is at home, there are still training exercises and schools he or she must attend which will effectively mean that you will be on your own for weeks or even months at a time. Beyond this, there's the normal rhythm of military life, with servicemembers moved to new duty stations, either at home or abroad, every few years.  Usually, this means that the entire family packs up and moves, severing friendships, ending civilian jobs, taking kids out of school and so on.

To its enormous credit, the military has created extensive support for military families, from unit level family support groups (where civilian spouses provide support to each other) to assistance with job placement to complete medical coverage for spouses and children to access to chaplains.  When it comes time to move, the service branch will pick up the tab for moving the entire family, and will ensure that it provides decent housing for that family at the new duty station.

Needless to say, none of these supports are available to same-sex couples (and likely wouldn't be even with the repeal of DADT, because of DOMA).  As a result, in order to make a long-term relationship work, a same-sex couple must go to very great expense moving the civilian partner each time the military partner has a permanent change of station.  There will be no assistance with either housing or employment.  There will be no moral support of any kind.  The civilian partner will be left entirely on his or her own.

In my own case, I knew exactly how impossible it would have been for me to carry on a long term relationship and a career in the Army.  Yes, there are a few people who make it work, but it's incredibly hard when the relationship is constantly buffeted by the stresses of military life.  It takes a truly extraordinary person to be the same-sex partner of an active duty member of the military.  And so I generally carried on by myself - married to my career, as it were.

Repealing DADT alone won't fix this problem; at most it might allow same-sex partners access to family support groups.  If gay men and lesbians are to be fully welcomed into the military, their families will need to be welcomed as well.  That will require repeal of DOMA.