What makes a gay soldier different from a straight soldier?

This Sunday is Veterans Day, the annual holiday where we celebrate the amazing work, service, and devotion of our armed services veterans. To honor our servicemembers, we're launching a new video with OutServe-SLDN called "Same Skin." The "Same Skin" video looks at two members of the armed forces and asks: What makes a gay soldier different from a straight soldier?

The answer, of course, should be nothing. But because of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits federal respect for lawful marriages between same-sex couples, married gay soldiers are different because they are denied over 1,100 protections and responsibilites that their straight, married counterparts receive.

Through our joint Freedom to Serve, Freedom to Marry campaign, which we launched with OutServe-SLDN in May, we've been shining a light on the dozens of ways that servicemembers in same-sex relationships are treated differently than servicemembers in different-sex relationships. 

Servicemembers with same-sex partners are not afforded many of the protections guaranteed by the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs. These federal protections for married military couples include shared health insurance and medical coverage, military identification cards, the ability to live together on military bases, support from morale and welfare programs, and surviving spouse benefits.

Army veteran and OutServe-SLDN Executive Director Allyson Robinson commented on the video and the Veterans Day reflection, saying:

Today, we remember all who have served our nation so honorably; but we reserve a special remembrance for all those who have provided the same service, taken the same risks, and made the same sacrifices to keep us safe, yet are treated as second-class citizens by the country they are sworn to protect. The video we are releasing today depicts that stark reality quite well.

Our founder and president, Evan Wolfson, also commented on the video. He said:

This video viscerally captures the cruelty of treating gay soldiers and their families as second-class citizens under DOMA - the psychological pain of inequality, on top of physical scars born of service to our country. With the Supreme Court likely to hear a challenge to the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and Congress considering the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal it, decision-makers need to see up close the very real harms federal marriage discrimination inflicts on the families that our country should most closely protect. And following an election in which voters embraced the freedom to marry like never before, members of Congress and justices of the Supreme Court can have confidence that when they do the right thing, it will not only stand the test of time, but be true to where the American people already are. 

Our "Freedom to Serve, Freedom to Marry" campaign has taken in-depth looks at nearly a dozen stories of military families and examines the struggles and challenges they face because of DOMA.  In June, Army Captain Steven M. Hill explained that if something were to happen to his husband Josh Snyder, Capt. Hill wouldn't be allowed to take a mourning leave from the military. In July, we heard Army National Guard Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan tell her story of battling incurable stage 4 breast cancer - and explain that should she not survive, her wife, Karen, would be unable to access the survivor benefits that she needs in order to take care of their five-year-old daughter. And just last month, we saw Major Shannon McLaughlin and her wife Casey discuss the challenges of raising two twin children given the restrictions DOMA inflicts on the U.S. military's treatment of same-sex couples. 

Over the course of the campaign, over 30,000 supporters have signed our petition to repeal DOMA on behalf of military families. Our federal team has been using those signatures to lobby key members of Congress and show them that DOMA damages our armed services and disrespects our service members. 

To learn more about Freedom to Serve, Freedom to Marry, click HERE, and read all about the so-called Defense of Marriage Act HERE