Friday, October 16, 2009
Army Disciminates Against Bereaved Poly Family, ACLU Saves the Day
Apparently a long-term M/F/M/F poly quad with several children was doing what I've believed for a long time could be an entirely sensible solution to the burden of extended isolation and loneliness partners of deployed servicemen and servicewomen regularly have to endure. Both men were in the Army stationed at Ft. Campbell, KY, which straddles the Tennessee/Kentucky state line.
Tragically, one of the men has been killed in combat. As if this grieving family hadn't already been through enough, in the process of assigning survivor benefits the Army learned about the quad arrangement, decided to deny benefits to the widow and insisted on paternity testing to find out which man fathered the children - AND, the surviving husband in the quad faced a dishonorable discharge and loss of his career.
In the civilian world, it is my understanding that legally the father of a child is whomever is legally married to the woman who gave birth to the child. Of course, the Army operates under a different code, specifically the Uniform Code of Military (In)Justice ("UCMJ"), and it was unwilling to pay benefits to a soldier's legal child if he was not the biological father of the child. It was reported that the widow admitted that the quad was never really sure which man is the biological father of which children because they never worried about such things.
It was also said that the Judge Advocate General office declined to get involved in defending this family. However, the good news is that the ACLU was very happy to step in and quite effectively resolved the problem, partly by threatening national media attention. Due to the ACLU's efforts the widow will get her full benefits as will all of the fallen soldier's children. Hooray! The status of the surviving husband's threatened discharge was not mentioned, but hopefully the ACLU was able to prevent that as well. .
Of course, this was a difficult story to keep quiet, and the remaining triad continues to experience various kinds of oppression from locals bigots so is planning to move out of the area.
I don't know whether the soldiers in question were enlisted or officers. It's long been my understanding that the UCMJ's morality laws against adultery were much more aggressively enforced as to the behavior of officers than they ever were as to that of enlisted soldiers. Someone I know who knows about such things told me within the last year that the Army is no longer prosecuting adultery, having higher priorities for which to use its resources, yet here this story is. It may be that once the family configuration was disclosed, the Army believed it was compelled to enforce it's laws.
As the practice of polyamory continues to gain popularity, more such situations may well arise. The ACLU has many more resources than does the polyamory community, so we can only hope that it will continue to step up and help out. As for the rest of we polyamorists, it would be a good idea to write the ACLU a check for as much as we can afford and make it clear the reason for the donation.
I'm sending them $100 right now. How about you?