What Were They Thinking?
One Woman’s Opinion
By Sheri de Grom

In my opinion, the Department of Defense (DoD) has stepped over a line by giving ten days of uncharged leave to accommodate same-sex marriages.

The Pentagon attempts to defend their decision by saying the policy is about fairness, not generosity. I’m not accepting their weak defense.

The Pentagon asserts that only thirteen states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriages, creating a hardship for U.S. servicemembers stationed in many parts of the world.

But, many military heterosexual couples also meet, develop relationships and subsequently marry. These heterosexual couples are forced to combine resources to overcome many of the same hardships as the same-sex couples. Rarely are the heterosexual couples from the same state. This means extra travel days if they wish to include their families in celebrating their wedding.

It’s always been understood that if a service member takes time off to get married, this time was not ‘free.’ It was charged to the soldier’s annual leave. Every soldier earns thirty days leave each calendar year.

Tom and I chose to marry in Carmel, California, at a location that was dear to both of us. This also meant we had the extra planning and expense of flying in family from several states.

I worked for the DoD and Tom was active-duty at the time. Neither of us thought of asking our commanders for free time. Instead we planned carefully and took three weeks of our own individual leave. It wouldn’t have been right for the tax-paying public to subsidize our wedding. And it’s not right that tax revenues be used to pay for vacation days for same-sex marriages.

The Supreme Court ruling in June knocked down the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Along with housing stipends, health-care coverage and separation pay, the new rules allow commanders to grant free leave time—up to ten days for troops overseas, up to seven days for U.S.-based troops more than one hundred miles from a state that recognizes same-sex marriage.

IMO, this ruling goes well beyond simply recognizing same-sex couples in the ranks!

The Pentagon continues to defend their position by stating, “Gay servicemembers aren’t guaranteed the full seven or ten days off. The decisions on the amount of time granted will be made by their commanders, who will decide based on unit responsibilities and an individual’s personal situation.”

Pentagon officials have estimated that about 5,600 active-duty servicemembers and 3,400 guardsmen and reservists will apply for same-sex spousal benefits when they become available.

Is granting free leave a sound financial decision when we are downsizing our military?

I’d like to hear from you. What’s your opinion? Where do you stand on the issue of uncharged leave for same-sex marriage within the military?

Sheri's Garden

Sheri’s Garden

About Sheri de Grom

Retired Fed/JAG, 5 yrs. on Capitol Hill. Former book buyer for B and N. Concerned citizen of military drawdown. Currently involved in mental healthcare reform, health care strategist and actively pursuing legislative change wherein dual retirees are exempt from enrolling in Medicare at their own discretion without losing tertiary healthcare benefits. Monitor and comment on Federal Register proposed legislation involving Mental Health, Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, Medicare and rural libraries. Licensed OSHA Inspector to include Super Fund sites. Full time caregive to Vietnam era veteran. Conceptualized, investigated possible alternatives, authored, lobbied for, and successfully implemented Title X, Section 1095 (known as the Third Party Collection Program of Federal Insurance).
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  1. findingmyinnercourage says:

    In this latest Supreme Court Ruling, to me it does not seem like equality for all. What am I missing?

    • Dawn – IMO, what we are mising is that none of our supreme court judges have real life experience. They haven’t lived and worked in the real world where everyone has too get along. They have no experience in living with the consequences of their decisions. Unfortunately, when they are appointed, it’s a life-time appointment. It’s the same with Judge Roberts writing the decision that Obamacare was lawful. The President, all members of congres and the supreme court are exempt from Obamacare. They wil continue to have their 100% health care coverage.

      • findingmyinnercourage says:

        I have a question embarrassed to ask because I should know the answer but why is the President, all members of congress and the Supreme Court exempt from Obamacare?

        IMO I agree with you on the “real life experiences” 110%!

  2. I support same-sex marriage. But I agree that the DoD should adopt an evenhanded policy.

  3. heila2013 says:

    Very very interesting discussion!!

  4. Pintowski says:

    I’ll call it excuses in pretence to reality.

  5. Pingback: First Hand Stories | pacificparatrooper

  6. Kimball Wilson says:

    Off topic, but needs attention!
    I agree, “the Supreme Court made a terrible decision but what could we expect?” The Supreme Court has ruled their can be no sexual orientation discrimination and that heterosexuals and homosexuals are to be treat completely equal. The argument was marriage was a Gender Issue i.e. between a man and a women. After the ruling, gender should have very little to no role in determining who can do what and when/where it can be done or else we risk sexual orientation discrimination. The issue is that the DOD does not want to treat HETEROSEXUALS equal to HOMOSEXUALS! The DOD loves to say they don’t allow sexual orientation discrimination but can my wife and I use the same locker room at the gym, can we shower in the same shower area, can heterosexuals be assigned dorm bed rooms with each other? The answer is “NO!” Are homosexuals legal allowed all the above with protection from the DOD? “YES!” We have serious inequalities that must be addressed! I do not purpose equal access in the areas for heterosexuals but I believe heterosexuals should have equal privacy so we would not be forced to do these things with anyone, male or female, that has a sexual orientation to our gender. Bottom line, if we wish to prevent inequality with leave then we must fight the fight and demand Heterosexual equality across the board.

  7. Informative and clear. Just the way I like my news. My opinion is simple if guys want to marry and have the same rights as heterosexuals then they should use their accrued time time. Or give heterosexuals the same benefits.

  8. Sheri, I have noticed that humans tend to go to extreme in their decisions and tolerances/intolerances. It was extreme (and not good) when gays were bullied and harmed etc. in prior generations. But it seems society tends to swing the opposite direction now and is creating a favoritism for minorities of any sort. I wish everyone could respect all without either extreme. I am happy to agree to disagree with others respectfully; and I wish the same treatment back at me. I’m with you on this one -equality rather than special treatment.

    Blessings ~ Wendy

    • Wendy – Eloquently said. This act could have been implemented easily at the command level but now it’s being forced. No one wins when they are forced to accept regulations, even if they happen to agree with the regulation. I’ve seen it happen over and over in government. A piece of legislation starts out clean and simple and by the time it hits the floor for a vote – no one recognizes it. Thanks for stoppping by and commenting. I always appreciate your thoughts.

  9. Daniel says:

    I teach at a military training school, and I can tell you there are forces at work behind the scenes that are changing the entire culture of the armed services. We currently have an issue with a student accusing everyone he comes into contact with of gay sexual harassment – so far 5 investigations in 9 months and counting – and all a coming up with nothing. All the leadership wants this kid out, but no one will do anything about it, because of what appears to be threats of repercussions from much higher. Anyone else would have been discharged for false accusations and baiting months ago. As a former soldier, I’ve never seen morale lower in 20 years. I hate to say it, but I would not recommend my son or daughter to join. We as a country have forgotten that our soldiers volunteer to serve, and that also means they don’t have to volunteer.

    • Daniel – Thanks for your knowledgable response. My husband is retired military and I worked DoD for 20 years as a civilian and neither one of us would recommend the military as a lifestyle choice for anyone. I’m saddened to see a great institution slide so far away from what it was meant to be. I can only imagine how much of your time and other staffers must put in to documment the student’s behavior that should have been removed from the school long ago. During the time I worked in DC I was told I ‘had’ to keep the employees I inherited although I would be filling 50 new billets. When I recognized the employees I’d inheritted were not working and were only dragging the overall operation down, I set about preparing the mountain of work required to have them removed from civil service employment. Many of them had 20 years on the job and other directors had put up with them. I spent hundreds and maybe even thousands of hours of my own time, but I finally accomplished what was suppossed to be impossible–I fired 27 full time federal employees with over 20 years service. I gave them the option of leaving on their own and that way they could have saved their retirement but they thought I’d never win. It was an ugly fight, but I wasn’t about to give up. I so understand what you and the other instructors are having to cope with.

  10. gpcox says:

    [off topic – just want to check in and see how you’re feeling.]

    • Thanks, you are so very kind. We are both at least vertical today and that’s a real accomplishment some days. Hubby is wall-walking when he’s up and hasn’t formed a loving relationship with his walker yet! We read and enjoyed more of your blogs last night. Your ‘rememberance post’ for 9/ll was really well done. My husband, Tom, said he wanted me to remember to take my lap top along with my i-Pad to the VA – he wants to see if the day treatment program will incorporate your blog into their daily activities (hear the double drum roll there). My treatment begins Oct 14 so still lots of nerve pain going on. I’m reluctant to find out about all it’s going to involve. I put my treatment off until Oct 14 in order to get Tom’s new treatment team in place. We still don’t have a difinitive diagnosis for him yet. Thanks for asking and have a great weekend. Tom gets very little of his medical care at the VA but we still like to do our part in supporting the men and women that are patients there and especially the vertans without families.

      • gpcox says:

        You and your husband are doing the men a wonderful service; even if they don’t want to discuss their combat, they do remember. I’m thrilled you both enjoy the posts and feel I am doing a good enough job for the veterans’ stories. You two take care of yourselves.

        • Indeed, you are doing a supurb job with your work. Just this past week a psychologist from the local VA called and asked me if he signed on to follow your blog did I think he’d learn enough to better relate to the men? I giggled (he’s young and just out of school). I suggested he sit in on some of the men’s discussions as if he wanted to hear some of their stories, somewhat as a grandson might like to hear of memories of a grandfather. I also suggested he not only follow your blog but to utilize content, etc. (within the boundaries of copyright permission of course) to utilize with patients that are dropped off for day treatment. I’m unable to get away to help him this week – so invited him here and think it will be good for both Tom and the young doctor to interact. I’m sure Tom will tell me he has socks older than the psychologist:) It’ll also be good for Tom to have someone to talk with other than me for a while.

          • gpcox says:

            Tell the Doc to use what he wants and I hope all goes well with him and Tom. Tell the Doc, when you run into someone who won’t discuss the war or their problems with it – read someone else’s story to them – they will (9 out of 10 ten times) inevitably HAVE to tell one to outdo the other.

            • Look what you’ve started! The VA is sending a van with the young clinical socialist worker and two psychologist on rotation with 7 WWII veterans and 3 Korean veterans one evening this week in our direction. We’ll all meet for a great and hello at one of our local generous restaurants hosting everyone simple drinks and cocktails of their choseing. Later we’ll all have a sit-down dinner, compliments of the restaurant and then back to the local VFW hall for a discussion of their experiences and enjoyment of your blog. This activity has indeed been a lifesaver for my husband. It’s giving him a focus until we have a diagnosis to think about for him.

              • gpcox says:

                I have tears in my eyes, Sheri. Truly, I DO NOT KNOW WHAT TO SAY! All I ask, is could you do me one favor? Could you please say THANK YOU to the vets? I’m still speechless…

                • Look at the tremendous service you are providing today’s veterans. Plus, I haven’t seen my husband, Tom, this animated in 5 or 6 years. For an evening, the veterans will be away from the VA where most of them reside to join other veterans who reside in the same location but yet they have never talked with each other. Our goal is to bring these men together and hope they will forge friendships regardless of the branch of service they served in. This age group is the hardest to involve in group activities at the VA and more often than not, don’t venture from their rooms for days on end. Even if we improve the lives of 12 or so veterans, I’ll consider this a victory and a success. Look what you started with your blog – congratulations my friend.

                  • gpcox says:

                    I sure hope this all works, Sheri. But, my work would not have done anything without you and Tom!

                    • gpcox says:

                      PS – no one should get upset if the vets start to argue about which branch of service was better or did more – that competitive spirit helped them get thru the battles, it will help build their strength now. (Smitty had the 11th Airborne Div. verses the Marine Cavalry rushing for Manila)

  11. Lynn says:

    I’m with you, Girl. What were they thinking?

  12. ksbeth says:

    i would hope for equal allowances for all –

  13. What’s the problem when they’ve already been given this marital freedom– seems trivial ~ with so many greater impending problems ! Love your garden !

    • Hello Deborah – How nice to see you here. Thanks for you compliment on my garden. I’ve been trying to remember to include one picture per post at the end of my blog. I’ve thought a lot about what you told me about your container gardening and as hard as the thought is here in the initial stages, I’m preparing to do more and more of it.
      I so agree with you about the marital freedom issue. It seemed the Armed Forces were moving ahead at a respectable pace when the Supreme Court stepped in and overturned what had been working. My point in bringing the issue up has to do with the bleak financial look our military is in and here we are giving free vacation days to those that have to travel to states that allow same-sex marriages. We have less equality within the military ranks than during WWII. And, you are so right. We have so many important issues that need addressing.

  14. atempleton says:

    Basically, one hopes that eveyone is treated the same, treated equally–no more no less.

    • Thanks for stopping by – Unfortunatelly with the new law, the equality that had been gained was lost. There must be another solution to the situation. IMO we cannot afford, as a money-strapped country to give away free vacation days to anyone. They must be earned by each individual. We all face hardships at one time or another. We are all brought into this world as children of God but we sure do a great job of messing up that entire concept.

  15. Without going into my opinion of the whole concept of same-sex marriages, I certainly agree with you that they should not be given special favors. The sad truth is that federal laws and regulations are rife with preferred treatment for all sorts of minorities at the expense of the general public (i.e., the TAXPAYER).

    • Good Morning, David. Thanks for dropping by. On this particular subject, I’d like to send the Supreme Court packing. Better yet, let’s suit them up for battle and send them to our 12 year on-going war. You are so right, with our downsizing military, the sequester and everything else going on, we cannot afford to give away free leave days. On the same day this story broke, there was also news popping that thousands of ‘Guardsmen’ were being furloughed in Hawaii and an additional thousands more in other locations in the country. These men and women are full-time servicemembers, yet they are furlouged 20% while we set aside money for free leave–that bothers me a great deal. The Guardsmen are needed for the terrible tragedies we are facing within the United States and now we are pulling their pay – somethng seems terribly wrong with this picture.

  16. Jane Sadek says:

    The original mistake was to grant so many privileges to traditionally married couples back when it was the accepted norm. Obviously, no one anticipated the trouble these laws and privileges cause today, but even back in the beginning they were prejudicial to single people. Then along with the inequality of married vs unmarried, they added laws that showed a preference to people with children. All this same sex marriage stuff does is highlight the earlier mistake. Rather than trying to extend the benefits of marriage to every flavor of marriage, I think they should do away with all the prejudicial laws and privileges. You want to get married? Great! What should that have to do with your tax status, your welfare status or anything else in the government?

    • Hi Jane – I pray life has calmed down somewhat for you. How is your Mother?
      The same-sex marriage for the military has been a tough situation from the get-go. However, without throwing in my own opinion on the subject – the military way of life is just that, it is a way of life. There are some that flourish and others that truly suffer in the environment. I urge all that don’t thrive in the military to simply fulfill their contract and then move on to other career aspirations. (In today’s economy that’s easier said than done). The reason I’m taking a stand on the issue of granting free leave to same-sex couples for marriage is that heterosexual couples have never been granted this and it’s going to cause divisions within the ranks. I wouldn’t want to be the servicemember preparing for a trip to wherever to celebrate their marriage while I was carring weapons on my back to fight a war. We want our military ranks to be cohesive – not feeling resentment.

      For many years there’s been a public perception of the ‘servicemembers and their families’ having the good life. This simply isn’t true. I was one of the ones that knew how to forge ahead and dive into the governmental system and carve my own place. I worked all day and went to university at night to acquire all of my degrees and thankfully they paid off. We’ve been at war for 12 years and there’s been precious little for our men and women in uniform to celebrate. We are an all volunteer force. More and more benefits are being taken away from soldiers and veterans as the days roll by. Please trust me on this one – we can’t dump the military into the ‘general population’ category. Sure, there’s more than enough bad apples to pass around but over-all, our soldiers give their hearts and souls to protect our country so we might sleep at night without the fear of an invation into our own homes.

      There’s so much I’d like to write here but space doen’t allow. Back in the day, they liked to say, ‘Soldier we issued a duffle bag and not a wife and family.’ That was the end of conversations when families were mentioned. We know a family waiting at home makes for a healthier soldier and once again, these families rarely have enough money to buy the food to get through the month, are desperate to gather school supplies for their children and yet they are some of the hardest working volunteers I’ve yet to meet.

      I was single for many years after my first husband was killed in Vietnam and wanted nothing to do with the military but part of my grief counseling had to do with connecting with other young family members and helping them get back on their feet emotionally, spiritually and show them that with support that with from their friends they too could survive when a cruel curve ball was thrown their way.

      IMO, the Supreme Court made a terrible decision but what could we expect? None of them have ever lived in the real world or had a real world job.

  17. It seems like a big contradiction. My gay friends want fair and equal treatment, they never ask for or feel entitled to anything above anyone else. I think the Pentagon is sending a bad message here.

  18. likeitiz says:

    Good points. What’s the rationale for the ten days uncharged leave? Is it so these couples can travel to one of the 13 states to say their vows? I know I’m missing something.

  19. treyzguy says:

    Excellent points…

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