The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] on Tuesday announced a settlement [press release] with the federal government to provide full separation payment to service members discharged under the controversial Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) [JURIST backgrounder] policy. The complaint [text, PDF], filed by the ACLU and the ACLU of New Mexico [advocacy website] in 2010, did not seek to challenge DADT, but an internal Department of Defense separation-pay policy that automatically cut in half veterans' separation pay solely on the basis of their sexual orientation. James Esseks, the litigation director for the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & AIDS Project, said:
I'm pleased to announce that the Obama Administration has just agreed to settle the lawsuit by paying all of the service members 100 percent of the separation pay they are owed. Coming on the heels of the repeal of DADT (for which the Administration deserves tremendous credit), this policy change is a wonderful (if overdue) recognition that these soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines deserve no less than all the others who served honorably and defended their country with their lives.The settlement will cover service members who served at least six years, and were discharged on or after November 10, 2004 under DADT.
Gay rights remain a controversial issue throughout the US, particularly with respect to same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder]. In December Wisconsin's 4th District Court of Appeals ruled [JURIST report] that the state's domestic partnership registry does not infringe on the Wisconsin constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Earlier that week the Montana Supreme Court [official website] affirmed [JURIST report] a lower court's dismissal of a lawsuit seeking legal status for same-sex relationships. Montana, like Wisconsin, has a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Earlier that month Washington Governor Christine Gregoire certified the results of Referendum 74 [JURIST report] which legalized same-sex marriage in the state. Washington had previously recognized domestic partnerships [JURIST report]. Also in December the US Supreme Court [official website] agreed to rule [JURIST report] on two cases dealing with same-sex marriage. In Hollingsworth v. Perry [docket] the court will consider the validity of Proposition 8 [JURIST news archive], a California referendum that revoked same-sex marriage rights. In United States v. Windsor [docket] the court will examine the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [text; JURIST news archive].