The largest group representing gay
troops on Thursday filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the
constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as it relates
to gay and lesbian service members.
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network
(SLDN) is representing six gay couples in the lawsuit.
The legal challenge, filed in the same
Boston federal court that ruled last year that DOMA is
unconstitutional, argues that the 1996 law that bars federal agencies
and the military from recognizing the legal marriages of gay couples
violates gay military couples' Fifth Amendment right to due process.
“This case is about one thing, plain
and simple. 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,” said SLDN Executive
Director Aubrey Sarvis in a statement. “These couples are in long
term, committed, and legally recognized marriages, and the military
should not be forced to turn its back on them because the federal
government refuses to recognize their families.”
Massachusetts Army National Guard Maj.
Shannon McLaughlin, 41, and her wife, Casey, 34, are lead plaintiffs
in the suit. The McLaughlins married in 2009 and are the parents of
ten-month old twins, Grace and Grant.
“We've been serving our country too
long, working too hard, and sacrificing too much to see our families
denied the same recognition, support and benefits as our straight,
married counterparts,” McLaughlin said.
According to SLDN, DOMA blocks the
military from providing housing, health care, surviving spouse
benefits and morale, welfare and recreation programs to the spouses
of gay service members.
“As plaintiffs, we are fighting to
receive the same benefits and opportunities as our married
heterosexual counterparts,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Charlie
Morgan of the New Hampshire National Guard, a plaintiff in the case.
“This discrimination causes undue financial and emotional hardship
for our families. As a cancer survivor, who has been recently
diagnosed with a recurrence, I worry every day that my health may
take a turn for the worse, and Karen would be unable to receive the
survivor's benefits to help take care of our daughter. We are only
asking for fair and equitable treatment as a recognized family.”
The list of legal challenges to the law
continues to grow, even as the
Senate has taken steps to repeal the law. However, the issue is
a non-starter in the House, where its speaker, Rep. John Boehner of
Ohio, is defending the law in court.