SAGE Applauds Signing of Historic Repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell
"This is a major victory for lesbian, gay and bisexual people, who will now be able to serve openly and honestly," said Michael Adams, executive director of SAGE (Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders). "The ranks of SAGE are full of elder veterans who served their country but were treated like second class citizens simply because of who they are. They've lived with that burden for decades—this important step forward will change that."
For Garrison Phillips, an 81-year-old Korean War veteran and longtime SAGE constituent, the repeal of DADT represents a significant moment for both current and past service members.
"This repeal helps anyone who is lesbian, gay or bisexual to stop the lies that have defined almost every moment of their lives. This is a major step forward in helping people understand that how we live our lives is not a choice, it's the way we were created," said Phillips.
For LGBT older adults who are veterans, some pronounced inequities remain. According to SAGE's report with the Movement Advancement Project, Improving the Lives of LGBT Older Adults, the partners of lesbian, gay and bisexual veterans are still denied benefits that are available to veterans' heterosexual spouses. For example, same-sex couples are not eligible for the needs-based death benefit paid to an un-remarried surviving spouse of a deceased wartime veteran.
The report also notes that veterans' hospitals fall under federal law and therefore do not recognize same-sex partners or families of choice, raising issues around visitation rights and medical decision-making if a veteran obtains medical services through these providers.
Despite these lingering barriers, for many in our community, this week is a time to celebrate.
"Especially after 81 years, for me it's an extraordinarily momentous event," said Phillips.
Read the full report Improving the Lives of LGBT Older Adults>>
Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) is the country's largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older adults. Founded in 1978 and headquartered in New York City, SAGE is a national organization that offers supportive services and consumer resources to LGBT older adults and their caregivers, advocates for public policy changes that address the needs of LGBT older people, provides education and technical assistance for aging providers and LGBT organizations through its National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, and cultural competence training through SAGECare. With staff in New York City, Washington, DC and Chicago, SAGE coordinates a growing network of 30 SAGE affiliates in 20 states and the District of Columbia. Learn more at sageusa.org and lgbtagingcenter.org.