Don't Ask, Don't Tell is finally repealed, but my husband can't dare to wear his wedding ring to work whilst he does his part protecting the United States.
Yes, the United States has made a step in the right direction, but the reality of the situation for LGBT service members remains quite sad and very discouraging. I am continuously hearing how great and wonderful this repeal is, yet no one is talking about what it really means. No one is talking about what rights LGBT military members now have. The truth, is that they don't have rights, well other than to share with their co-workers what sex they are attracted to. If indeed, they feel inclined to now be judged and treated differently. What if a LGBT military member has a family? What if they want to share their love and life with the ones they serve with? What if they are deployed overseas, can their partner go with them? What about health care for their spouse? Heterosexual couples get almost double the income once married to help support their families; will a same sex couple receive the increase in pay? The answers are quite simple, no, no, no, no and lots more nos.
I married my husband on May 26th, 2011. We've been living in the UK because he works for the the United States Air Force and is stationed here. I chose to quit my job, sell everything I owned, and follow my heart by moving to the UK in November 2010. I entered on a six-month visitor visa and DADT was still in effect at the time. However, we were very hopeful it was going to be repealed very soon. In May of this year, when my visa was up, we decided to return to the States to be married in Vermont. After being married, we purchased tickets to return to the UK and I yet again, entered on another six month visitors visa. At this point, staying together was becoming very expensive. When we entered the UK, the immigration officer was suspicious as to why I hadn't gotten sponsorship from the US military since we were married. He was shocked when we educated him by saying that they will not sponsor me since our marriage is not recognized by them. You see, here in the UK, their military recognizes same-sex couples, married or not, and they are eligible to receive full benefits. Being here has been a challenge, as the U.S. military will not sponsor me. We are struggling to make it on one income. I am unable to work or receive health care. As far as being out at work for my husband, that's not an option. How am I to support my husband's career, when what he does, doesn't support us? Everyday, I am reminded he is expected to give his life if needed, but they will not protect and take care of me, his family. It makes me angry. I try my best to focus on how much I love him, and that things will find a way of working out. When my visa is up this time, it doesn't look like we are going to have the money to leave and re-enter the UK yet again. We need to come up with a plan. I am unable to apply for a work visa and the marriage/settlement visa cannot be applied for from within the UK. I would need to return to the US, pay the high application fees, and wait for months hoping it gets approved. There would be no guarantee. There's nothing I couldn't handle or get though with him, but being apart just isn't an option for us. We want for nothing more than to be able to stay together. If the military recognized our marriage, we wouldn't have any of these issues. We wouldn't face being apart, we would have double the income, I could find a job, I would have health care, and most importantly my husband could be open and proud, and not take his wedding ring off every day before he gets out of the car.
DADT being repealed, sure, as I said, it's great step in the right direction, but we have a long fight ahead. I want to do my part in this fight and make the U.S. aware of what LGBT military members still have to face on a daily basis. I almost have to laugh when I think about this. What is everyone so afraid of? It's only love.