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Those who serve finally gain equal rights

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For nearly 12 years we’ve been at war. Almost two and a half million Americans have fought for us in Iraq and Afghanistan. Statistically speaking, thousands of these folks must have been gay. It’s taken me a while to come to terms with this.

Even if they had been legally married in one of a dozen states where they could do so, until June 26, they were denied the benefits straight troops get. They couldn’t live in on-post housing, get family health coverage, day care on post for their kids. They wouldn’t be notified if their spouse overseas were injured or killed, be able to visit them in the hospital, or be handed a folded flag at a burial service “with the thanks of a grateful nation.”

They couldn’t get money for college as other military spouses did, or get survivors’ benefits until June 26. One hundred thousand veterans still have less than honorable discharges for being gay. Yet they volunteered to defend us? Where do we get such people? Almost all were born to straight parents. Raised in a traditional, church-going family, many feared rejection by both their parents and their God. Growing up, many lived with fear that there was something different, perhaps something dreaded, about them. Bullied in school and rejected by teenage peers, they endured a 50 percent adolescent suicide risk pool. Adulthood brought many discrimination in employment, housing, and worship. Nobody would choose such a life.

Yet still, over the years, thousands upon thousands of them stepped forward, raised their right hands, and wrote a blank check payable to this country any amount, up to and including their lives. A country that’s taken a long time to accept them. The Supreme Court had to do what they did. The rest of us can’t be the best of us unless we share with these other Americans, simple justice.

Roland Van Deusen

Clayton

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