Members of the Pentagon working group reviewing ''Don't Ask, Don't Tell'' repeal implementation are looking for opportunities to meet with the same-sex partners of current servicemembers, a Pentagon spokeswoman told Metro Weekly on Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 18.
The news comes on the heels of an announcement earlier today, first reported by The Hill, that the Pentagon is mailing 150,000 surveys to opposite-sex spouses of current servicemembers on Friday, Aug. 20. The survey of spouses had been reported earlier, but the timing of the survey was confirmed today, including that the spouses' surveys will be due back to the working group by Sept. 27.
In response to an inquiry from Metro Weekly about working group efforts to reach out to spouses or partners of gay, lesbian and bisexual servicemembers, Pentagon spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said that it is a ''high priority'' of the working group to meet with same-sex partners.
''We have reached out to groups – OutServe, Servicemembers United, SLDN and other organizations – to determine how we can meet with partners of servicemembers who are gay and lesbian and serving currently,'' Smith said, ''in order to identify unique issues of those partners.''
J.D. Smith, the co-director of OutServe and an officer currently serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, confirmed to Metro Weekly that the Pentagon working group had been in touch with his group about the issue.
''I believe that the efforts of the Pentagon working group to reach out are sincere,'' he said, adding that ''they were just initiated with us this week.''
Noting that no event is yet set to do so, the Pentagon's Cynthia Smith pointed out the difficulties that DADT places on organizing such outreach, saying, ''We want to make sure that it's a confidential dialogue and make sure that if they disclose any personal information that it won't be used against them or their partner.''
While dismissing the importance or need to survey opposite-sex spouses regarding DADT repeal, J.D. Smith said, ''LGBT military couples do need to be brought into the discussion.''
Pointing to issues about the lives of same-sex military couples and military benefits, among other issues, he said, ''I think that those discussions need to take place.''
In a follow-up email, he pointed to another of his organization's concerns.
''OutServe is still concerned with how they will address military partnerships between two military members. Because of DADT, they cannot have open discussions with them, like [they] can with a civilian partner of a military member,'' he wrote. ''There are unique issues with two military members dating (deployments, etc) that discussions should take place about. They need to come up with a solution to talk to these partnerships, which they haven't yet [done].''
When discussing efforts to engage same-sex couples in the working group's process, Cynthia Smith noted that ''there are ways already that a partner could provide us with a comment. They could use their partner's common access card'' to log in to the DADT comment ''inbox'' and leave a comment for the working group about the policy's repeal.
The deadline for responses to the working group's survey of servicemembers themselves was this past Sunday, August 15. According to CNN, the Pentagon reported that 104,000 of the 400,000 surveys had been returned as of August 13.
SLDN and Servicemembers United, both mentioned by Cynthia Smith as being contacted by the Pentagon, did not respond immediately to Metro Weekly's request for comment.