Conflict & Justice

Defense of Marriage Act: Gay troops sue


U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, surrounded by members of the House of Representatives, the Senate and three former members of the armed services who were discharged because of their sexual orientation, displays the repeal of the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' law after signing it on Dec. 21, 2010.



A group of gay U.S. service members filed a lawsuit in federal court Thursday that challenges the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act and asks the military to provide the same benefits to their spouses that spouses of straight military personnel receive, the Boston Globe reports.

DOMA defines a “spouse” as a member of the opposite sex and prevents the military from providing same-sex couples with equal benefits, according to the Boston Globe.

According to The Associated Press:

The suit lists various benefits given to straight married couples they say gays are being wrongly denied, including medical and dental benefits, housing allowances, travel and transportation allowances, survivor benefits and the right to be buried together in military cemeteries.

“This case is about one thing, plain and simple,” Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said in a statement. “It’s about justice for gay and lesbian service members and their families in our armed forces rendering the same military service, making the same sacrifices, and taking the same risks to keep our nation secure at home and abroad."

The lawsuit comes about a month after the Pentagon ended its "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which lifted the military’s ban on gay soldiers serving openly, the Washington Post reports.

More from GlobalPost: “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” set to run out

The suit also claims the denial of benefits to gay spouses "is a threat to national security," The AP reports, arguing that "service members who are distracted by thoughts that their loved ones are not being cared for may render the service members less effective combatants."

The lead plaintiff, Massachusetts Army National Guard Maj. Shannon McLaughlin, 41, has twins with her wife, Casey, 34. Unlike a straight spouse, Casey would not be allowed to take the children to regular medical appointments at a nearby military base if Shannon were deployed, the Washington Post reports.

Under DOMA, the military “is creating a second-class service member,” Shannon McLaughlin told the Washington Post. “It’s amazing to me how many other similarly-situated families there are out there.”

Kirby Pentagon spokesman Capt. John Kirby told the AP that service members can already designate some benefits to anyone they choose, regardless of sexual orientation.

"In connection with `Don't Ask, Don't Tell' repeal, the Defense Department is engaged in a careful and deliberate review of the possibility of extending eligibility for benefits, when legally permitted, to other individuals including same-sex partners," Kirby said.

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