DADT’s End Cuts Both Ways for LGBT Servicepeople

by Shaun Knittel
Friday Jul 15, 2011

The end for DADT is near. That much is certain. The nation's courts, the president/commander-in-chief, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other military brass, legislators are all chanting a similar mantra: DADT will soon be dead.

What is not certain is the impact the repealed policy will have on LGB troops. While everyone, including the mainstream media, has speculated time and again about the impact DADT repeal would have on heterosexual military members and their families, not many have asked what would happen (other than assumed violence) to the gay servicemen and women.

One thing is for certain, with equality comes ... well ... equality. There can be no double standard. This may cause a problem for many LGB service members who've done their best to cheat the system. Light, it would seem, will be shined into the cracks and the way gay and lesbian men and women in uniform conduct themselves will be forever changed.

Case in point: marriage scam. I'm not talking about the age-old tried-and-true "beard." There are hundreds, possibly thousands of marriages that are a complete fraud to collect benefits. And now, the top brass is taking a closer look.

Currently, three Southern California Marine corporals are facing charges of defrauding the government for entering into sham marriages for financial gain. The fake marriage was hatched when a lesbian couple (one a Marine and the other a civilian) decided to live together off base.

The female Marine found a male Marine (whose sexual orientation is unknown) willing to get married, allowing them to collect a housing benefit. The civilian woman also eventually married a male Marine and collected government funds. The two women ripped off the government, not once, but twice, with sham marriages.

There was a time when all of this may have gone unnoticed. Those days, according to 1st Lt. Maureen Dooley, a Marine spokeswoman at Camp Pendleton, are over. "It doesn't matter what their sexual preferences are, they will be held accountable," she said.

In addition to the fraud and larceny charges, the three Marines will have to pay back the military a hefty $75,000. If none of them can afford to pay the government, which I think it is safe to assume they can't, they could face up to one year in a military prison.

Only married couples are eligible for the $1,200 a month housing allowance. So even after the military officially drops DADT, same-sex couples, even if married, would still not be eligible for the housing stipend due to federal DOMA. While this is obviously unfair to the brave gay men and women serving in the armed forces, the fact still stands that the three Marines knowingly broke the law. They were subsequently caught.

Their reason for committing the crime? Sexual orientation. The female Marine told a San Diego news station that she and her partner were "forced" to enter sham marriages "because the military does not provide allowances for unmarried couples" and they "couldn't afford to live off-base without extra money."

She and her partner only wanted to "be a family" she said. So they broke the law to do so.

That is a double standard and, as 1st Lt. Dooley stated, "it doesn't matter the sexual orientation because fraud, is fraud, is fraud." As far as I am concerned justice was served.

In the worst example of a doubles standard that I could find came late last month when three Air Force members asked to leave the service under DADT because they are gay, moving quickly to get out of the military before the ban on openly gay service is lifted.

According to the Air Force, in June, two female staff sergeants and a male second lieutenant made statements identifying themselves as gay and asked to be separated quickly from service. That is pretty crazy in itself, but what is even worse is that Air Force Secretary Michael Donley actually approved the discharges. Then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates had issued an order that said no one could be discharged under DADT unless it was approved by the secretary of the military service involved.

Do you know what other order Gates issued? While talking with troops in Afghanistan, the Secretary was asked by a soldier if those active duty service members who didn't want to serve with gays and lesbians wanted to get out, could they. Gates response. "No, I would expect them to finish out their enlistment just like everyone else."

And yet here we have three gay service members asking, and being granted, the right to voluntarily leave their military contract under DADT - the very policy thousands of LGB service members before them feared and to which they lost a career. That is not only a double standard it is downright shameful. If I had it my way the three would have to write an "I'm sorry" letter to the upwards of 14,000 gay and lesbian troops whose careers were ruined as they were booted out against their will.

DADT's days are numbered and with it, so is the double standard of which some LGB service people have taken advantage. When equality comes to the ranks, nobody will be allowed to use their sexual orientation as a crutch to break the law. With equality also come the consequences when it is abused.

Shaun Knittel is an openly gay journalist and public affairs specialist living in Seattle. His work as a photographer, columnist, and reporter has appeared in newspapers and magazines throughout the Pacific Northwest. In addition to writing for EDGE, Knittel is the current Associate Editor for Seattle Gay News.


  • , 2011-07-15 15:15:17

    As a straight wife of a marine, who supports gay rights 150%, and against DADT, I think those 3 who were involved in the false marriages are getting what they deserve. The woman marine knew what she was getting into when she took her oath to the military so she was NOT forced to enter a fake marriage. So many people think the military was discriminating thus lesbian couple by making them pay for what they did but that is so far from the truth. I know military people who married just for money. One man’s parents were well off and could pay the $20,000 that he owed back and the other went to prison for awhile. The military tried these people fairly. It is so sad though because I do believe love knows no gender. But when you put yourself in a situation where you don’t have certain right you should obey.

Add New Comment

Comments on Facebook