A new campaign launched on Wednesday focuses on the harm caused to gay military families by the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

The Freedom to Serve, Freedom to Marry campaign is being launched by Freedom to Marry, the nation's largest gay marriage advocate, and Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), which lobbies on behalf of LGBT troops and their families.

Because DOMA outlaws federal agencies, including the military, from recognizing the legal marriages of gay and lesbian couples, gay troops are not treated the same as their straight counterparts.

“Many people assume that, with the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' gay men and lesbians serving our country are now being treated fairly and equally, but that's not the case,” said Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry. “We ended the ban on open military service for gay and lesbian Americans, but there is still a federal ban on treating married service members as what they are: married. The so-called Defense of Marriage Act's 'gay exception' keeps the government in the business of discriminating against families, such as those of service members, and burdening employers, such as the military, who are prevented from treating their employees fairly and equally.”

DOMA denies the families of these troops health insurance, survivor benefits and access to military bases and housing.

The campaign includes an online petition calling on Congress to “end this discriminatory and unequal treatment of our service members and veterans by repealing DOMA.”

SLDN last year filed a lawsuit on behalf of eight married gay service members and veterans challenging the constitutionality of DOMA as it relates to military families.

“The faces and stories of military families impacted by the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act illustrate the unjust ways this law treats our nation's most courageous patriots,” said SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis. “It's unconscionable that we would ask American citizens to put their lives on the line for us in war zones while treating them and their families as second-class citizens at home.”

(A promotional video from the campaign is embedded in the right panel of this page. Visit our video library for more videos.)