I have been deliberately not paying attention to the David Petraeus story for various reasons, not the least of which it reminds me a lot of The Scarlet Letter, a novel I enjoyed teaching but never thought of as a model for good government. Still, when I heard an explanation on the BBC this morning of the US Military’s prohibition of adultery and the possible punishments, I wondered how those policies work after the appeal of Don’t Ask Don’t tell and the advent of legal gay marriage in some states.
If a same sex couple gets married and then one partner, a member of the military, commits adultery, can he or she be punished under the Uniform Code of Military justice? I would think the Defense of Marriage Act would prohibit the military, a government entity, from recognizing the marriage and thus there could be no punishment. Any other ruling would lead a patchwork in which it would depend on when and where the marriage ceremony took place and also when and where the individual was based when committing the transgression.
So, to stretch things just a little bit, the root of Petraeus’s problem is that he is in a different sex marriage as was the woman with whom he had an affair. Had they been in same sex marriages, there would be no problems (at least with adultery in the eyes of the military).