But less than 24 hours after arriving at the retreat, she and her spouse were told to leave. The military chaplains who organized the program last month said that the couple was making others uncomfortable. They said they had determined that under federal law the program could serve only heterosexual married couples.
Lieutenant Hardy is a lesbian in a same-sex marriage who had hoped that the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2011 would allow her to fully participate in military life. But she and many other gay and bisexual service members say they continue to encounter a raft of rules and regulations barring them from receiving benefits and privileges routinely accorded to heterosexual service members.
Lieutenant Hardy had been assured by the chaplain’s office in the weeks before the retreat that she and her wife were welcome to attend. The chaplains said in hindsight that those assurances were given in error.
“I felt hurt, humiliated,” said Lieutenant Hardy, 28. “These were people I had been deployed with. And they were telling me I can go to fight the war on terrorism with them, but I can’t attend a seminar with them to keep my marriage healthy.”
Gay marriage is now legal in nine states and in Washington, D.C. But because same-sex marriages are not recognized under federal law, the spouses of gay service members are barred from receiving medical and dental insurance and surviving spouse benefits and are not allowed to receive treatment in military medical facilities. Spouses are also barred from receiving military identification cards, which provide access to many community activities and services on base, including movie theaters, day care centers, gyms and commissaries.
A federal appeals court ordered the U.S. government on Wednesday to immediately cease enforcing the ban on openly gay members of the military, a move that could speed the repeal of the 17-year-old rule.
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy must be lifted now that the Obama administration has concluded it’s unconstitutional to treat gay Americans differently under the law. The appeals court noted that Congress repealed the policy in December and that the Pentagon is preparing to certify that it is ready to welcome gay military personnel.
Pentagon officials said Wednesday that they will comply with the court order and are taking immediate steps to inform commanders in the field. Col. Dave Lapan, Pentagon spokesman, said the department is studying the ruling.
Gay rights advocates said without an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court — which seems unlikely since the Pentagon already is committed to repealing the rule — the government now is barred from discharging gay or lesbian servicemembers anywhere in the world.