"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" might be over, but the legacy of second-class status for LGBT Americans, including those who serve in the military, is not. Without a doubt, the repeal is a good thing. At long last, the lesbian, gay, and bisexual Americans who risk their lives every day for our country will be able to be honest with their friends and co-workers, to say "I love you" to their significant others, and to live without constant fear of discovery. They will no longer have to switch pronouns when referring to their dates, pretend that the men and women whom they love do not exist, or act as if nothing is wrong after losing a partner or going through a break-up.
Yet while we celebrate this step forward, we must remember that we still have a long way to travel. We might stop for a moment to appreciate what we have accomplished, but we have an obligation to never be satisfied -- to fight, and keep on fighting, and never be happy until we have achieved full equality. Should we celebrate the victories on the way there? Of course. But let's never delude ourselves into thinking that we've come further than we have: military policy regarding the LGBT community remains problematic.
This is largely the result of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which requires the federal government to pretend that same-sex relationships do not exist. As a result, same-sex spouses will continue to be denied the same benefits provided to opposite-sex spouses, including health insurance, housing, or moving costs.
In fact, regardless of whether they are legally married, the military will continue to treat enlisted LGB people as if they were single. Transfers will not take into account same-sex relationships, possibly leading to the separation of couples for extended periods of time -- a hardship that heterosexual couples are rarely forced to endure. Spouses will not be permitted to know the circumstances surrounding their loved one's death; they will also not be eligible for travel allowances to attend repatriation ceremony if their husband or wife is killed in action. In addition, as is not the case for opposite-sex couples, they will not be permitted on base, or to participate in military support programs. Same-sex couples will furthermore be excluded from receiving hardship benefits.
Moreover, the legacy of discrimination continues for those who have already been victims of the military's bigoted policies. Those servicemembers who were discharged under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, or under the military's previous policy of actively searching out lesbians, gays, and bisexuals, will not be receiving the same benefits they would have received had they been heterosexual. Rather than receiving their full separation pay, these brave Americans will only be paid half of it.
We have come a long way since the implementation of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, but let's not forget all of the work that remains to be done.
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