For thousands of same-sex military spouses, the Supreme Court’s ruling that struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act meant recognition and equality for the first time.
At the Association of the U.S. Army’s massive convention this week, the first since that ruling, equality meant the freedom to network. Just ask Lauren Lamoly, who was manning the American Military Partner Association’s table today.
“[AMPA is] constantly using resources that we find at other military spouse organizations. But even being here this week, I have already found so many resources for myself that I can’t wait to share with AMPA,” Lamoly said.
“It’s really exciting to talk to other military spouse organizations and realize how similar our experiences have been,” Lamoly said. “We have all these spouses who are brand-new military spouses even though they have been with their partners a long time.”
Lamoly, the wife of a female Air Force lawyer in Tuscon, said recognition has suddenly meant roughly 4,000 same-sex spouses are navigating the complex and sometimes confusing world of military benefits. On Sept. 4, she was among a group of same-sex spouses who obtained a benefit card for the first time.
AMPA’s mission includes connecting family members helping these newly eligible spouses learn how to access their benefits. AMPA has held seminars on Tricare and education benefits, Lamoly said.
“We’ve become a voice on the pieces they didn’t realize they had access to, we’re an ambassador for them,” Lamoly said.
Gay troops are still weighing individually how open to be about themselves.
“There are some people on the day of [don’t ask, don’t tell] repeal who were screaming down the hallway, and some who were worried about their careers,” Lamoly said. “You’re rolling the dice, you don’t know what your boss thinks.”
Lamoly, who volunteers as AMPA’s director of communications, is also facing a dilemma common to military spouses, finding work. At AUSA, she met representatives from In Gear Career, a nonprofit for military spouses pursuing professional careers.
“Even talking to women here who own their own business, they say, ‘I know someone who can give you some writing work,’ ” she said.
In all, the reception to the table — awarded to AMPA president Steven Peters through another organization, Military Spouse CEO — has been entirely positive.
At least one soldier ran up to announce she was a member and take a picture, and some commanders have picked up literature to hand to gay soldiers with same-sex partners who come to them with questions.
“When you realize we’re military families, to not support us because of the gender of the people that we love is crazy,” she said.