10 APRIL 11, 2003
www.houston voice.com HOUSTON VOICE
Little support for partners of military gays
■MILITARY GAYS, continued from Page 1
of gays in the military deployed to the war
in Iraq, while Lauren is among the partners left behind who must conceal the true
nature of their relationships.
Gays deployed to Iraq and other locations in the Persian Gulf region must
endure the same fears and family disruption associated with war as their hetero-
sexual counterparts, according to officials
with the Serivcemembers Legal Defense
Network, a military watchdog group that
assists gay service members.
But unlike their heterosexual compatriots, SLDN says, gay service members and
their same-sex spouses must endure the
added fear of being ensnared in the military's
"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy which calls for
the immediate discharge of gay service members who disclose their sexual orientation.
Although gays can secure a discharge
under the policy whenever they wish by coming out of the closet few chose to do so, said
Steve Ralls, SLDN's communications director.
Ralls and Kathy Wescott, an SLDN
attorney, said the organization is flooded
with inquiries by gay services members
seeking advice on communicating with
loved ones at home without violating the
"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.
Benefits missing in action
On top of the pain of saying goodbye to
their loved ones, partners of gays in the military discover that they do not qualify for a
wide range of military programs available
to other service members' families. Among
them are spouse support groups, emergency
financial -aid and regularly scheduled briefings on the status of the units to which service members are deployed.
The Metropolitan Community Churches,
a Los Angeles-based network of gay-supportive Christian denominational congregations
in cities throughout the US, has stepped in
to provide some support services to partners
of gays in the military, said Rev. Marty Luna-
Wolfe, pastor of the New Life Metropolitan
Community Church of Hampton Roads, Va.
But Luna-Wolfe said congregations like
hers, which ministers to gay service member stationed at the giant Norfolk, Va., Naval
base, don't have the resources to match all of
the services the military provides.
There is little the church can do to alter
the military's rules on partner notification, where gay partners can only be classified as ordinary friends on a special military list of next of kin. The military uses
that list to contact the families of service
members killed or wounded in action.
"The military will contact everybody
on the list," said Heather, the p-artner of an
Iraq-bound Army reservist who was called
into active duty last month. "But it will
take longer for those who are not blood relative to be contacted."
Heather, 26, who .also asked to remain
anonymous, has lived with her partner
outside Philadelphia for more than eight
years. The partner, 40, is an officer who has
been in the Army reserves for more than
15 years and works full-time in a professional field in civilian life.
Heather described how she learned that
her partner's Army reserve unit had been
activated last month and was being shipped
out with less than two weeks notice.
"One day she came back from drill,"
Heather recalls. "She just hugged me and
would not let go. I said, 'What happened?'
She said, 'I'm going.' So we had about a
week to get our lives in order."
Heather drove her partner to the airport, where the partner flew on her own to
join her unit at a military base in the US.
The partner expects her unit to be transported to the Persian Gulf, most likely
Kuwait, within a week or two, Heather said.
Military families are invited to see
their service member loved ones depart for
their overseas journey, but Heather isn't
sure if she wants to go.
"She would like me to see her We have to be
careful about our usual way of talking to each
other and touching each other," Heather said.
Like Lauren, Heather said she doesn't
want to compound the stress and challenges her partner faces in the coming
weeks by coming out as lesbians.
"I'm at a loss," Heather said. "I've been
sending her mail. I sort of take things day
by day. It's very hard."
Although she doesn't think her letters
are being monitored, Heather said she tries
her best not to write anything that would
cause problems for her partner. "I try to keep
them general, like someone who just cares
about her, to make it sound like a family"
In doing this, she insisted, she is telling
the truth. "I'm including our pets, a dog
and four cats — a dog who is not happy his
mom is gone."
Lauren, whose partner's ship is in the
Persian Gulf, said the two consider themselves lucky because e-mail communication so far has been readily available, and
the partner can sometimes call her on the
ship's satellite phone.
"Her e-mail is monitored for security,"
Lauren said. "So I set up an e-mail account
without my name. I never put my name
anywhere on it. It's not fool proof, but it's
safer than using my regular e-mail."
Within the confines of her anonymous
e-mail messages, Lauren added, she feels
free to express her true feelings.
"We feel we have to communicate with
each other," she said. "I tell her I love her
and I miss her. I tell her that all the time."
In describing her partner's job on the
destroyer, Lauren said, "Her main duty is
to sit at a console and watch a radar
screen," which she said "sees a picture" of
the surface and the air, including all ships,
planes, and missiles in the Gulf.
"If you want to know if the Gulf is dangerous, it is," she said. "The entire Gulf is
considered a combat zone and a hot spot."
Luna-Wolfe of the MCC Church in
Hampton Roads said gay service members
and their partners have been members of
her congregation for years. She said the sudden deployment of thousand of troops in the
Norfolk area, which is home to eight separate military installations, placed a great
strain on military families, especially partners and loved ones of gay service members.
"Like any denomination, our military
members are coming to us for support,"
she said. "It's a place for partners and
loved ones to talk and cry It's a place where
they know they're not alone."
Like family members of all service members, Luna-Wolfe said partners of gay troops
engaged in combat in Iraq have been glued to
their televisions, their emotions swinging
from a sense of pride and joy to fear and horror. The gay service members, who mostly
have adjusted to the task of having to conceal their sexual orientation, are sending
back message of confidence, she said.
"When they get to a phone — it's not
very often — they always say, 'We're going
to be alright.' They say that all the time,"
Heather said the assistance that MCC
churches plan to offer is sorely needed.
"The one thing I would like people to know
is we are so disconnected," she s-aid. "I have
been left out of the loop of families of service
members.... I don't have access to any of this."
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network
P.O. Box 65301
Washington, D.C. 20035
Gay Marine seeks conscientious objector status
Reservist says sexual orientation
influenced his 'moral development'
By IAURA DOUCLAS-BR0WN
SAN JOSE, Calif—As an unknown number of
gay soldiers serve in silence in the US. war against
Iraq—banned from living openly by the military's
"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy — a gay Marine
reservist came out earlier this month as part of his
application for conscientious objector status.
Lance Cpl. Stephen Funk, 20, drew national
media attention when he held a press conference April 1 outside of the 1st Beach Terminal
Operations, 4th Landing Support Battalion in
San Jose — much more press attention than the
plight of gay soldiers serving in Iraq receives.
But Funk's case likely won't have much impact
in the ongoing debate about gays in the military
acconling to Aaron Belkin, director of the Center
for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military
at the University of California, Santa Barbara
"Some opponents of inclusion could cite this
case as evidence that gays and lesbians are not
patriotic," Belkin said. "I do not think most people would find that argument compelling, however since even the Pentagon has agreed that gays
and lesbians are as patriotic as everybody else"
At the press conference. Funk said he didn't realize the full implications of military
service when he enlisted last year.
"I refuse to kill," Funk said. "It is scary to confront the military; because the military teaches
you to submit to orders even when you object"
As part of his application for conscientious objector status, Funk told military commanders that he is gay.
"My moral development has also been
largely affected by the fact that I'm homosexual." Funk wrote. "I believe that as a gay man,
someone who is misunderstood by much of
the general population, I have a great deal of
experience with hatred and oppression."
Flanked by his sister and mother, gay Marine
reservist Stephen Funk spoke to reporters April 1
before turning himself in at his unit in San Jose,
Calif. (Photo by Eric Risberg/AP)
To some critics — including conservative
talk radio hosts Rush Limbaugh and Neal
Boom — the move smacked of someone willing
to take any route to get out of the military
"What we are seeing with what he is doing
is obviously someone who doesn't want to
serve," said Maj. Carolyn Dysart; spokesperson
for the Marine Forces Reserve.
Acknowledging his sexual orientation could
make Funk eligible for discharge under the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, which
bans openly gay service members.
But triggering a possible DADT discharge
isn't Funk's reason for saying he is gay according
to Amy Allison, a conscientious objector from the
first Gulf War who is serving as an informal
adviser to Funk as he seeks similar status.
"Stephen has never requested discharge for
any other reason than being a conscientious
objector — he is opposed to war," Allison said.
"But there is a conflict between 'Don't Ask.
Don't Tell,' which says people in the service
shouldn't disclose their sexual orientation, and
the regulations around applying for conscientious objector status, which require service
members to be sincere and honest in outlining
the influences on their moral development and
why that is incompatible with military service."