Army Brigadier General Smith becomes highest-ranking openly gay service member
August 13, 2012
Last week, Army Brigadier General Tammy Smith came out publicly for the first time during a promotion ceremony at the Women's Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, where her wife, Tracey Hepner, pinned a new star to Brig. Gen. Smith's uniform. The promotion makes Brig. Gen. Smith the highest-ranking openly gay military figure currently serving.
Aubrey Sarvis, the executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and an Army veteran, applauded Smith's leadership for gay and lesbian service members. He said:
It is indeed a new era in America's military when our most accomplished leaders are able to recognize who they are and serve the country they love at the same time. Brigadier General Smith made history today - not only as an exemplary service member who renders outstanding service to our nation with integrity and honor - but as a proud lesbian acknowledging the tremendous sacrifice her family makes in order for her to serve and advance. This day was long overdue, but I have no doubt more senior enlisted and officers will follow BG Smith in stepping forward smartly with their spouses and loved ones.
Brig. Gen. Smith's wife, Tracey Hepner, is a co-founder of the Military Partners and Families Coalition, an organization designed to provide support, resources, and advocacy for the same-sex partners of gay and lesbian service members. The organization's message and resouces are vitally important because same-sex partners of military service members are routinely discriminated against by the federal government.
The Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs guarantees a long list of federal benefits to married military couples. They can share health insurance and medical coverage, be issued military identification cards, live together on military bases, seek support from morale and welfare programs, and receive surviving spouse benefits. However, because the so-called Defense of Marriage denies federal respect of their relationships, same-sex couples are not afforded these benefits and protections.
Spotlighting this discrimination is at the center of Freedom to Serve, Freedom to Marry, our joint campaign with SLDN. Since May, we have been pushing this national persuasion campaign to illustrate how DOMA negatively impacts military families. Over 30,000 supporters have signed our petition to repeal DOMA on behalf of military families, and our federal team has been using those signatures to lobby key members of Congress and show them that DOMA damages our armed services.
Although Brig. Gen Smith can now serve openly in the U.S. military, her relationship continues to face discrimination because of DOMA. Until DOMA is repealed, Americans, including service members, will continue to be divided into two classes.
Freedom to Marry congratulates Brig. Gen Smith on her promotion and her continued dedication to the U.S. military. We will continue working with SLDN to ensure that her relationship - and the relationships of all married same-sex military couples - are recognized and protected by the federal government.
Photo by The New York Times