OutServe-SLDN is the association for actively serving LGBT military personnel and veterans. We are a non-partisan, non-profit, legal services, watchdog and policy organization dedicated to bringing about full LGBT equality to America's military and ending all forms of discrimination and harassment of military personnel on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. OS-SLDN provides free and direct legal assistance to service members and veterans affected by the repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law and the prior regulatory ban on open service, as well as those currently serving who may experience harassment or discrimination. Since 1993, our in-house legal team has responded to more than 12,000 requests for assistance.
OS-SLDN’s legal team began representing LGBT service members in 1993 and hasn’t taken a day off since. We have answered over 12,000 calls for assistance, and we open new cases nearly every day. As a legal team that has handled these issues for years, our attorneys are uniquely positioned as specialists who provide individual client representation related to LGBT military service. For our clients, SLDN’s legal department is everything from an information resource to a forceful advocate with the service member’s command to a full-scale litigation shop. SLDN ensures that every LGBT service member, aspiring service member, and discharged veteran who has a military issue related to his or her sexual orientation has a place to turn for free, confidential, high-quality legal services.
Policy of Nondiscrimination
The original Military Readiness Enhancement Act would have prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the military; Congress dropped this language from the final version of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010. The result: gay and lesbian service members are vulnerable to discrimination based on their sexual orientation. OS-SLDN calls on the President to issue an Executive Order prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in the military. Doing so would provide LGBT service members with recourse outside their chain of command if they are experiencing harassment or discrimination, and ensures that those who elect to serve openly can do so without fear of discrimination.
Equality of Support and Benefits
Legally married same-sex spouses of gay and lesbian service members will not receive the same family support or benefits as their straight married counterparts. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the definition of spouse in Title 10 of the United States Code are the primary causes of this disparity. But there are other benefits that the Department of Defense may now extend to same sex spouses—they simply have not done so. SLDN calls upon DoD to correct this inequality and provide benefits where possible immediately. Where Congress or the courts must act, OS-SLDN is lobbying Congress to make the necessary changes in the law and stands ready to litigate to secure full equality in the military.
Upgrading and Changing Discharge Paperwork
More than 14,000 service members were discharged because of their sexual orientation under DADT, and the stigma of that separation can live on forever. Reasons such as “Homosexual Acts” or “Homosexual Conduct” are stamped on discharge paperwork indicating why a service member was separated. A negative re-entry code on the discharge brands these veterans as people the military would not take back under any circumstances. Some veterans have discharge characterizations that are not reflective of their Honorable service. OS-SLDN attorneys work to change discharge paperwork for these veterans, and where appropriate, apply for a discharge characterization upgrade, so DADT will not harm veterans after the policy has been abandoned in the rest of the military.
The repeal of DADT did not change the regulations that bar service for those who identify as transgender. The DoD and the military branches continue to view being transgender as a service-disqualifying medical or psychiatric condition. People who identify as transgender and who apply to serve are blocked; those who are serving and are discovered are immediately kicked out. OS-SLDN will continue to advocate for a transgender inclusive military that determines eligibility not on an applicant’s gender identity or expression, but on their qualifications to do the job of defending this country.