When Rep. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin went with a congressional delegation to Europe, she brought along her spouse, as did other members of Congress. Or at least she wanted to. The Pentagon at first said her spouse, Lauren Azar, who had exchanged vows with Baldwin in 1998, could not take the flight. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi had to intervene before Azar was allowed on board.
Funny how discrimination looks different when it happens to someone one knows. Several Republicans even argued for Azar’s presence on the trip, according to sources who spoke with Politico. They said that Texas Rep. Joe Barton, the ranking Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee, was also on the trip, and “very vocal in his support of Baldwin.”
The Pentagon says the issue is not a matter of DOD regulations, but rather of House rules, which permit spouses (and sometimes an adult child) to travel with members of Congress on military planes if there is room. They say they were only following House rules by banning Azar, who is not a legal spouse. Speaker Pelosi, on the other hand, is awaiting a follow-up letter from Gates with new criteria for congressional use of military airplanes, containing, we assume, provision for same-sex partners.
Maybe it’s just my partisanship, but I can’t help seeing the DOD, with its “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, as the ones at fault here. Maybe it’s just that they don’t want to see members of Congress getting perks that the military denies to its own servicemembers, like recognition of same-sex spouses. Let’s see what you think: