Five ways the Defense of Marriage Act hurts gay and lesbian military families

Today is the first anniversary of the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the military policy that prohibited gay and lesbian service members from serving openly and honestly in the U.S. military. For years, service members in loving and committed same-sex relationships needed to hide their love and conceal the truth about their families to ensure that they would not be discharged from the service. 

The repeal of the ban is an enormous step forward for the LGBT community and translates to broader visibility for gay and lesbian service members and their families. The one-year anniversary merits huge celebration and thanks to all of the organizations and individuals who helped push through repeal last September.

But even though gay and lesbian service members can now serve openly, they continue to face discrimination from the federal government. Because of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits federal respect of lawful marriages between same-sex couples, gay and lesbian military couples do not receive the same federal protections that heterosexual couples receive. 

Since May, Freedom to Marry and Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) have been working together on a national persuasion campaign called Freedom to Serve, Freedom to Marry. Through a series of videos and other multimedia content, the campaign has illustrated the various ways that DOMA negatively impacts military families by highlighting the stories and struggles of gay and lesbian service members and their families.

The Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs guarantees a long list of federal protections and responsibilities 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 DOMA denies federal recognition of their relationships, same-sex couples are not afforded these benefits and protections.

DOMA is at odds with the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and now, gay and lesbian service members and their families are caught in the middle. After dealing with the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy for 17 years, same-sex couples are continuing to face discrimination. Until DOMA is repealed, Americans will continue to be divided into two classes.

To highlight some of the keys ways that DOMA hurts military families, Freedom to Marry and SLDN have created this infographic. Share the graphic on Facebook and show your friends that while there's much to celebrate on today's anniversary of the repeal of DADT, there's also much work to be done.