DOMA Hurts LGBT Military Families – Constitutional?
Memorial Day is a day to celebrate the bravery of those around us who have made it a goal to keep our freedoms and safety alive. The individuals involved in armed forces take it upon themselves to go through whatever they need to – even death – to ensure that their friends and most importantly, families can live a life of prosperity. It could be assumed that in their attempt to sustain a good life for their country, the military provides much assistance to the family members of military members. These benefits can range from healthcare to housing, and even to spouses after the unfortunate death of a family member.
While the above is seen as a reasonable expectation, it seems that not all members of the military are treated the same and their families are hurting because of it. The LGBT community is being hurt once again and a prime example can be seen in North Carolina. According to Gallup, as of 2012, LGBT Americans make up 3.5 percent of the overall population. Assuming the same proportion of LGBT service members exist among the 1.5 million active and reserve members currently enlisted in the armed forces, 50,000-60,000 members of the military are being unjustly affected by DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) if or when they are married. North Carolina law denies partners (even those who were legally married in other states) of soldiers in any legal relationship recognition in the state, which denies them any benefits that could be gained by a hetero couple.
“Our LGBT military families have been treated as if they aren’t important and as if they don’t matter” as quoted by Ashley Broadway, a legal wife to Lt. Col Heather Mack at Ft. Bragg. Heather Mack was denied membership to the officer’s spouse’s organization, despite being named military spouse of the year by Military Spouse magazine. “We serve our nation, but without the same support and benefits needed to care for our families,” said Broadway. “For the sake of our children and family readiness, we must end the discrimination and exclusion.”
Individuals like Karen Morgan have been faced with nothing but grief due to DOMA after the loss of her wife while on duty. Karen’s wife Charlie was a dedicated fighter and wore her uniform with pride. Sadly, after her death, her family is left struggling with no benefits in hand. This means no health insurance, no housing assistance, and no survivor’s benefits. A few days ago Freedom to Marry and OutServe-SLDN released a video allowing Morgan the opportunity to tell her side of the nightmare. “DOMA haunts almost every aspect of my family’s life and it doesn’t measure up to our values of freedom and equality that we’ve set as a standard for our way of life in the United States.”
The US Supreme Court is expected to make a decision by the end of June in the case of United States v. Windsor. This case is meant to challenge the Defense of Marriage age in judging on whether or not the act is constitutional. If found unconstitutional, the driving down of DOMA will certainly be a historical event for the LGBT community for it will finally state that LGBT families have the same rights to benefits as everyone else in the military.
Zakia McKensey, a native of Richmond, VA and has worked tirelessly to advocate for the transgender community and those affected or impacted by HIV/AIDS. Zakia started her career in HIV prevention in 2001 with Fan Free Clinic as the MSM (Men who sleep with Men) coordinator. She worked there for close to ten years. During [...]February 17, 2017
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