When Melissa Smith retires from the Navy in April, she should feel pride in praiseworthy career defending our nation. Instead she’ll feel sadness that the letter of recognition she wrote for her wife won’t be included in her official retirement ceremony.
T.J. Jenkins finally married her partner, Ship’s Serviceman Melissa Smith, two months ago in Maryland, where same-sex marriage is legal. But because of DOMA, she can’t be considered a spouse, according to Smith’s commanding officer.
That means that while other married servicemembers get to honor their partners ‘ sacrifices as part of a longstanding Naval tradition, Jenkins efforts won’t be acknowledged.
She calls the snub “a slap in the face” and admits Smith has thought about not attending her retirement at all.
“My wife has served our nation for almost twenty years, and this is the way she is treated by her command?” says Jenkins (middle row, center). “I believe that Captain Geis is being a bully and using DOMA as a shield to hide behind. He wants to use the terms ‘service member’s partner,’ when in fact I’m not her partner, I’m her wife!”
The couple also says they’ve been told that only Smith’s two biological children will be acknowledged at the ceremony, not Jenkins’ children that they’ve raised together. “They’re just going to give the certificates to two of the children and not the other four?” Jenkins explains. “You know how would that make them feel? Because they’re all sisters and brothers.”
Stephen Peters of the American Military Partner Association believes the C.O.’s directive show a real lack of leadership from both him and the entire chain of command: “Certificates of appreciation have been given out repeatedly throughout the Navy to same-sex spouses since the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” says Peters. ” It is simply outrageous that this commanding officer is now suddenly trying to use the Defense of Marriage Act as an excuse not to honor the wife of this Sailor at her retirement ceremony.”
Smith was named Navy Cash Sailor of the month in June 2008.