January 26, 2012 | by Chris Johnson
OutServe to host military partner summit in D.C.

An organization representing active duty LGBT armed forces personnel announced on Thursday it would host in the spring its first summit to advocate for military partners and families.

In a news statement, OutServe announced that the event, called the OutServe Capital Summit, will take place May 14-15 in D.C. at the Renaissance Hotel. The theme of the event will be “Our Families Matter.” Registration is at http://outserve.org/capital-summit/.

Air Force 1st Lt. Josh Seefried, co-director of OutServe, said in a statement the event’s purpose is to highlight inequities that LGBT military personnel with same-sex partners face in the wake of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal.

“Our goal with this summit is to bring together the military community to address the issues that affect LGBT military families and how to solve them,” Seefried said. “We need to educate decision-makers, as private citizens, how our families are affected — and send a clear message that our families matter.”

In an email to the Washington Blade, Seefried said he’s planning on around 200 attendees coming to summit. No invitations have yet been sent to high-profile attendees.

Seefried said the summit will be based out of the hotel, but on the second day of the event, organizers will bring participants to the U.S. Capitol in “teams” based on their home state to speak with lawmakers.

Some issues affecting military personnel with same-sex partners can be resolved administratively by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. These issues include joint duty assignments as well as access to legal services and military family housing. The Defense Department has said it would examine these issues, but hasn’t yet taken action.

Other benefits, such as health insurance for partners and surviving spousal benefits, cannot be offered to same-sex partners of military personnel because of the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage.

Other LGBT organizations are co-sponsoring the event: the Human Rights Campaign, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and the Courage Campaign.

Zeke Stokes, an SLDN spokesperson, said of his organization’s participation in the summit, ”SLDN is looking forward to being a partner in this first-of-its-kind event that will welcome gay and lesbian service members, their families, and other supporters of full LGBT equality in the military to our nation’s capital to discuss post-DADT repeal challenges and opportunities and share their experiences with decision makers.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this posting incorrectly stated the OutServe event would be the first-ever event of it kind for military personnel with same-sex partners. In September 2010, Servicemembers United held a military partners forum as part of its lobbying effort to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Read the Blade preview story of the forum here.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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