Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Gays Try To Ban Soldiers From Shopping At Religious Owned Stores

Advocates: Put anti-gay businesses off-limits to troops

By Karen Jowers, Staff writer6:45 p.m. EDT April 7, 2015

Military installation commanders should be encouraged to place off-limits establishments that discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals by not selling wedding cakes for same sex "Weddings", an advocacy group has told Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

In an April 7 letter to Carter, Matt Thorn, OutServe-SLDN interim executive director, cited the controversy in Indiana over that state's recently enacted Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a law that has drawn varying interpretations.

Thorn and others contend that it would grant government authority for businesses to discriminate against LGBT people.

"Though the law was recently amended, there is still significant concern, due to the lack of statewide anti-discrimination laws for LGBT individuals," Thorn wrote. "This is of particular concern to OutServe-SLDN and our LGBT service members, veterans and their families living in states that do not offer those protections when they are off base."

OutServe-SLDN, with more than 50 chapters and 6,000 members around the world, provides education, legal services, communication, support programs and advocacy.

Installation commanders can place off-limits any business, building, place, structure, vehicle or area, thus prohibiting service members from patronizing, entering or using them. Commanders may exercise that authority if they determine the facility or location in question is harmful to the welfare and safety of troops and their families.

"Establishments that actively discriminate against LGBT individuals are fundamentally affecting morale, as well as putting at risk the safety and welfare of your LGBT service members," Thorn wrote to Carter.

Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen, a Pentagon spokesman, said unit commanders make such decisions "for a variety of reasons, including security concerns, et cetera."

Christensen added that defense officials "will respond promptly and directly" to the OutServe-SLDN letter.

"We appreciate their concerns regarding this issue," he said, adding that the Defense Department "remains committed to ensuring that all men and women who serve our country, and their families, are treated fairly and equally. We expect our service members to be treated with dignity and respect regardless of an individuals' sexual orientation."

In an interview with Military Times, Thorn said no known complaints from service members against specific businesses have been brought to OutServe-SLDN's attention.

"But when an individual has gone through this, especially in conservative states, it's far more likely they don't complain," he said. "My big focus is on being preemptive and proactive, rather than reactive. We don't want to wait for something to happen. We'd rather address [issues] now before they become bigger."

Thorn said a form will be placed on his group's website that troops can use to notify OutServe-SLDN of businesses about which they may have concerns.

"We encourage people to report them so we can communicate to base commanders and DoD so that necessary actions can be taken," he said.

In his letter to Carter, Thorn noted that the Defense Department "has advanced and evolved on LGBT rights far swifter than other jurisdictions and departments and we applaud you for those strides."

"OutServe-SLDN is now asking that you continue expressing equality values and the evolution of support for all military personnel, by encouraging your commanders to place establishments (commercial businesses and properties, housing units and recreational properties) that are knowingly and openly discriminating against LGBT individuals on the list of 'off-limits' establishments for service members," he wrote.

On Wednesday, OutServe-SLDN will launch its "United We Are Strong" campaign. The effort aims to unite LGBT troops and veterans with the civilian LGBT community to repeal the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and advocate for anti-discrimination legislation in the 30 states that still do not offer legal protections for LGBT individuals, Thorn said.

(Military Times) highlights our additions for clarity

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