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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24 Responses to “Military dragging feet on SecDef’s order giving gay troops leave to marry”

  1. Nathanael says:

    The Marine commanders are trained in “honor”. This includes obeying the lawful orders of their superior officers even if they disagree; there is one *honorable* alternative, which is resigning.

    The Army is riddled with dishonorable people. This is because the Army encourages dishonorable behavior. There’s probably a history behind this, since it was going on as early as WWII. (The Union Army of the Civil War was quite a different beast.)

  2. Nathanael says:

    This form of insubordination is punishable by a dishonorable discharge.

    Alternatively, it’s well within the rights of the President and the Secretary of Defense to simply relieve these men of their command — obviously they are not capable of command any more, if they can’t even pay attention to orders from the Secretary of Defense. That isn’t even a punishment — it’s a discretionary administrative action.

  3. wmforr says:

    It is evidently a trademark held by (supposed) Christains. It certainly wouldn’t apply to Muslims who violated the law.

  4. Butch1 says:

    ‘your situation shouldn’t make you special,’” she said.

    “situation?” I think someone’s Commander needs to revisit some in-service on human relations and how to interact with homosexuals and not discriminate against them. This person is sorely lacking in that department and has forgotten much that was taught when the person in charge of their branch of service signed off on this education. One hates to go above the Chain of Command because of what it can do to your chances of advancement and longevity in the service but this is discrimination and should not be tolerated.

  5. dcinsider says:

    Love the trademark!

  6. rmthunter says:

    1) The U.S. military is riddled with evangelical “Christians.”

    2) If the commanders in question persist, they will become martyrs because they will be punished for not violating their Deeply Held Religious Beliefs (TM). Tony Perkins will have a field day lying through his teeth about it.

  7. rmthunter says:

    It wouldn’t be insubordination, but it would insure that the commander makes the troop’s life miserable from then on. He sounds like enough of an a$$hole to do just that.

  8. craigkg says:

    If these phobes think it is such a “special privilege” that gays get to take leave to get married where it is legal if they are stationed more than 100 miles from a place where they can get married then the simple solution to equalize the situation is to ban all service members stationed more than 100 miles from a state that allows same sex marriage from marrying within that 100 mile radius and apply the leave rule to all service members, thus according heterosexual AND homosexual service members, their colleagues, family and friends the “special privilege” of the hassle and expense of having to have their marriage conducted more than 100 miles from their stationed location.

    The fact that a non-discrimination/equal protection clause was gutted from the DADT repeal continues to have repercussions. Even with the relevant portion of DOMA struck down, the DOD still can’t get it right.

  9. Ninong says:

    If a straight couple wanted to get married before one of them deployed overseas, they could have done that and qualified for military spousal benefits. In Harper’s case, he wanted to go home immediately so that his boyfriend, who is in school and working two part-time jobs to make ends meet, could apply for spousal benefits, such was military healthcare, tuition assistance and housing allowance. That was not legally possible before he deployed. Apparently his battalion commander doesn’t understand the difference. In any case, it’s not up to battalion commanders to question Pentagon policy.

    In McCabe’s case, her wedding isn’t until January, so I’m sure she can get things straightened out before then. At least her commander is granting her request for leave, just wanting it charged against personal leave. Harper’s commander told him he could only go home in the case of a death in the immediate family (emergency leave) because otherwise it would be unfair to heterosexuals.

    Once again, the Marine Corps is leading the way in implementing changes in the way the military handles equality issues, which is really surprising if you remember how vociferously their commandant fought against change. The military has their own definition of “effective immediately.” Just because a Pentagon memo dated 13 August 2013 said the new leave policy would be “effective immediately” doesn’t mean “immediately” in any rational sense of the word. It means they need time to figure out ways to get around it first before issuing final guidance. So far only the Marines have issued final guidance.

  10. karmanot says:

    correction: Is ignoring rapes……

  11. cole3244 says:

    you give them too much respect with your description.

  12. cole3244 says:

    if you knew anything about the uniform code of military justice you would understand about illegal orders, but as i said you are ignorant if not stupid.

  13. nicho says:

    They are liars, perjurers, and ass-kissing opportunists — just waiting until they can retire with a fat pension and double dip.

  14. nicho says:

    No we don’t. They wanted the legislative solution because they were afraid of a court ruling that would end this nonsense. If you think military commanders have even a shred of honor, please watch the tapes of the 1993 hearings where Pentagon brass took their limousines across the Potomac and lied their asses off — under oath — to the Congress.

  15. Name says:

    This seems different than someone who is stationed in Nevada and needs leave to travel to California to get married. In this case, it is likely that neither a male nor female service member would be granted leave to go home to the US and marry his/her fiancee. It is fairly unusual that a straight fiancee would fly to Kuwait to get married (even if this is allowed) especially if spouses aren’t allowed on the deployment.

  16. kungfufelon says:

    Or you’re too bitter. Again, the point still stands that no matter how broad your experience of the military is you probably are in no place to have an opinion about most of the people in it. As somebody who lived through DADT and the repeal of it (but not of DOMA), your jadedness (or ignorance, whichever) completely betrays the goodwill of most commanders I knew who wanted benefits extended to all of their subordinates not because they like the gays but because it’s the right thing to do. You also betray the fact that even though the homophobia is a stereotype of a uniformed individual, we have not exactly seen a dramatic rise in anti-gay violence, mass resignations, and systematic alienation of LGBT service members. And there’s a good reason for that: you know the world that is now most accepting of gays? Service members also come from that. They are not immune to the idea now largely held by most of society that there’s nothing wrong about being gay. The military has already change long before DADT was repealed and DOMA fell. We can keep thinking otherwise, but that would be a gross misrepresentation of the military’s role in social change (the military desegregated almost a decade before the south and women have been making strides much faster in the military. And please, don’t say sexual assault. Although I am not one to argue that sexual assault is not a big problem in the military, the military actually self-reported the numbers that incriminate them now. And don’t even get started with how the civilian world treats sexual assault. Try to be a rape victim in a college campus and let’s see how much justice you get.)

    And please, before you hurl things like “carrying out illegal orders,” clarify exactly what that means. Because it sounds like you really don’t even know what you’re talking about.

  17. kungfufelon says:

    Really? “Insubordination” has a very specific definition in the military. Questioning your leader is not considered insubordination. And you know what would have helped? Printing a copy of the memo and saying, “here’s a copy of the reg. Now can you sign my leave form?”

  18. kungfufelon says:

    LT McCabe is an officer. She should have known that there is an adjudication process through which they can bring this up (Inspectors General). They need to go through them because at the very least, the IG will kindly remind the commander of what the regs and policies are. If no compliance happens, the military member can bring his or her complaint up the chain, even to JAG who is required to record the complaint and investigate the matter (or at least talk to the IG, who is also required to record the complaint). How to have proof that they recorded your complaint? Get a copy of the paperwork. I hated the bureaucracy in the military, but one thing you always have if you do everything properly is paper trail.

    BTW, all these anti-military tendencies need to stop: the military was one of the most potent advocate for ending DOMA. We actually need to give the institution some credit.

  19. cole3244 says:

    so i guess you are too ignorant to see by their actions that the military leaders are against gays in the military no matter what the commander in chief or the law says. you are a true believer in the chain of command and carrying out orders illegal or otherwise, you are a peon of the first order.

  20. kungfufelon says:

    So I guess you have met most commanders in the military? (And I speak from experience. When DADT was being deliberated, my commander expressed disapproval of homosexuality, but expressed support to the notion that anyone who can do the job should be able to do the job. I respected our differences, but I respected more his ability to look past his opinions.)

  21. Thom Allen says:

    But this is the trendy thing to do. If you don’t like an order (or a law) you can obstruct it, try to get it rescinded, ignore it, or just shut down the whole organization. It’s so childish and so very Republicon. And, you can take out your frustration, anger, hate and bigotry at work. Then, when you get home, you don’t have to kick the dog.

  22. BeccaM says:

    True, all that, but unfortunately, these aren’t employees. They’re subordinates. And many commanders don’t like being corrected by their subordinates, hence the term ‘insubordination.’

  23. cole3244 says:

    as i have said before if you think the leaders in the military are people to be admired and looked up to most are not, yes i speak from experience.

  24. emjayay says:

    I’m sure these commanders all get policy and proceedure stuff sent to them in government emails all the time. And if they read Stars and Stripes I’m totally sure it’s been covered a lot there as well. If an email wasn’t sent, then there is a management problem. One way or another it seems like a simple thing for the employee to dig up the policy and print it or send it to the commander. The possiblity of the commander then making their life miserable in every way they can think of and thwarting promotion and giving them bad reviews or however that works is maybe the reason they don’t.

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