Virginia Senators absent from call for protections for gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members
While many of us spent yesterday honoring members of the US military, the harsh reality of life for an out service members still exists.
That is, unless a new law is passed granting protections for LGBT members of the military like 23 Senators have asked.
“Formal equal opportunity policy in the military provides no protection or redress for service members who find themselves victims of sexual harassment or discrimination based on sexual orientation,” reads a letter sent to Defense Secretary Ash Carter (top image) in the hopes of creating such protections. While repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell represented progress toward LGBTQ acceptance in the military, the Senator’s say the environment for such members is still unequal.
“The absence of formal equal opportunity protections not only undermines foundational American principles of fairness and equality, it also presents an unneeded risk to national security by negatively impacting the morale and readiness of our all-volunteer force.”
Essentially, while a member of the military is allowed to be openly LGBTQ on duty, there is no repercussions for those who harass or mistreat them – this is similar to most state laws, including Virginia’s, which provide no protection for LGBTQ employees in the private workforce.
The letter, sent out last Thursday, aims to “strongly urge” Carter to update the Pentagon’s equal employment opportunity policy and in all the service branches “to prevent discrimination, harassment, or intimidation of service members based on sexual orientation.”
There is no mention of transgender service members in the letter, but also missing are the names of Virginia’s two Senators – Mark Warner and Time Kaine.
The Senators who did sign were Chris Murphy, Tammy Baldwin, Richard Blumenthal, Cory Booker, Barbara Boxer, Maria Cantwell, Ben Cardin, Chris Coons, Dick Durbin, Dianne Feinstein, Martin Heinrich, Mazie Hirono, Al Franken, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, Bob Menendez, Barbara Mikulski, Gary Peters, Bernie Sanders, Brian Schatz, Jeanne Shaheen, and Elizabeth Warren.
Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who helped dismantle DADT, was the sole republican signature on the letter.
The full text of the letter:
The Honorable Ashton Carter
Secretary of Defense 1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1300
Dear Secretary Carter,
We are writing to strongly urge you to update the equal opportunity policies across the Department of Defense (DoD) and military services to prevent discrimination, harassment, or intimidation of service members based on sexual orientation. In the three and a half years since the end of the discriminatory policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT), the military services have failed to include binding protections for gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members in Equal Opportunity Programs. The need to correct this failure becomes even clearer in the context of DoD’s 2014 Human Goals Charter, the Department’s cornerstone document governing the fair treatment of people, which states that DoD will “strive to make military service in the Department of Defense a model of equal opportunity for all regardless of race, color, sex, religion, sexual orientation, or national origin.”
Formal equal opportunity policy in the military provides no protection or redress for service members who find themselves victims of sexual harassment or discrimination based on sexual orientation. The repeal of DADT represented great progress toward eradicating a significant barrier to formal equality, but the military is not yet an equitable environment for gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members. The absence of formal equal opportunity protections not only undermines foundational American principles of fairness and equality, it also presents an unneeded risk to national security by negatively impacting the morale and readiness of our all-volunteer force. Conversely, an environment in which all service members can defend their country with honor and personal integrity, and without fear of discrimination, strengthens the bonds of shared sacrifice and maintains good order and discipline.
While DoD has made great strides toward ensuring equal opportunity for its civilian workforce, based on sexual orientation, equal opportunity policies for the military continue to lag behind. Under Army, Navy, and Air Force policies, only race, color, religion, sex, and national origin are protected under equal opportunity policies by all three services. We ask that you carefully reexamine your current policies (Air Force Instruction 36-2706, SECNAV Instruction 5350.16A, and Army Regulation 600-20) and amend them to include sexual orientation as a protected category.
We have the finest men and women serving in uniform and they all deserve equal respect and a safe working environment. It is long past time that the military services enact comprehensive reforms to protect all of our men and women from any discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Thank you again for your service and we look forward to your response.
“Once more people realize same sex attractions do not mean you have to be any kind of label, just yourself…”September 19, 2016
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