Pentagon Greenlights Same-Sex Partner for Military Flight

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Last month, the House’s only openly gay memberone of the House’s two openly gay members, Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin, was granted permission to bring her partner Lauren Azar on a congressional military flight. In line with Pentagon policy, which only allows members to bring legally defined spouses on military flights when there is room and when it is “necessary for protocol purposes,” Azar was initially barred from boarding the flight. Baldwin and Azar have exchanged vows, but their home state of Wisconsin does not recognize same-sex marriage. No matter, though: Clinton’s 1996 Defense of Marriage Act would have made state recognition null and void to the Department of Defense.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stepped in and appealed to Defense Sec. Robert Gates. Gates requested a formal letter of authorization from Pelosi, which allowed him (and the Pentagon) to conveniently sidestep taking responsibility for setting precedent on the rights of same-sex couples in Congress. Azar was subsequently allowed on the flight, but the Pentagon made crystal clear that such an allowance does not reflect any change in policy.

“This is not an issue of DOD regulations,” said Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell. “Secretary Gates honored a request from Speaker Pelosi to make an exception to the House rules…But that’s really as far as it goes…This should not be viewed as a precedent which would now permit all nonspouse travel. That said, Secretary Gates will, on a case-by-case basis, entertain the speaker’s future requests to make exceptions.”

While guidelines don’t allow wiggle room for same-sex partners, adult children are granted access to military flights if a spouse is unavailable to travel. Of course, taxpayers foot the bill for all this companion travel.

Although Baldwin herself isn’t commenting, let’s hope she doesn’t let this rest as a special case or a pattern of special cases. Exceptions are one thing, but many exceptions over time just make room for systematic discrimination.

—Joyce Tang

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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