After the Pentagon announced it would offer equal benefits for same-sex couples, one of the groups speaking up the loudest was the American Military Partner Association. Here’s its story.
When the Pentagon changed its policy earlier this week to extend benefits to the spouses of gay and lesbian service members, the first group many news outlets reached for comment was one that didn’t exist just four years ago.
But the American Military Partner Association, whose mission has evolved along with the military’s stance on homosexuality, says it still has much work to do to stand up for the rights of its members. More details:
About the group: The American Military Partner Association (AMPA), a group with more than 3,400 members nationwide, defines its mission as “connecting, supporting, honoring, and serving the partners and spouses of America’s LGBT servicemembers and veterans—our nation’s modern military families.” Begun in 2009 as the Servicemembers United-sponsored “Campaign for Military Partners,” the association evolved from an advocacy campaign to a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization in late 2012. Its focus changed as well to reflect the shift in the political battle from opposing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy to pushing for equal rights for same-sex couples. The association’s current president, Stephen Peters, is the spouse of an active servicemember.
The latest move: In a policy shift, the Department of Defense announced on Wednesday that it will extend spousal benefits to same-sex military and civilian-employee couples. Benefits will be retroactive to June 26, the date the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. The Pentagon also will allow servicemembers in same-sex relationships special leave to get married in any of the 13 states that allow such marriages. “We recognize that same-sex military couples who are not stationed in a jurisdiction that permits same-sex marriage would have to travel to another jurisdiction to marry,” the Pentagon said in a press release. “That is why the department will implement policies to allow military personnel in such a relationship nonchargeable leave for the purpose of traveling to a jurisdiction where such a marriage may occur.” Servicemembers currently stationed within the U.S. will receive seven days of leave; those stationed abroad will get 10 days. Benefits for same-sex couples will take effect by September 3, the Pentagon said.
The reaction: “The extension of equal benefits for all legally married spouses, regardless of sexual orientation, is a huge step forward for our families who for far too long have been excluded and cut off from support,” AMPA’s Peters said in a statement published by Politico. He noted, however, that more work needs to be done by the federal government on this front. “While this is a huge step forward in making sure our same-sex military spouses have equal access, we still have a long battle ahead of us in making sure all of our … military families have equal protection in all 50 states.”