Illinois military veterans have joined
the effort to make Illinois the 14th state to legalize gay
A group called Veterans Unite for
Marriage is calling on the Illinois House to approve a marriage bill
when it reconvenes later this month.
“It is overwhelming to me that
despite my years of service for our country, I am not afforded the
same marital rights as straight couples,” said Clayton Peterson, a
U.S. Army and Vietnam War Veteran. “I fought for this country to
uphold our freedoms and to allow all Americans to live and love who
they wish. It is sad that these freedoms do not apply to my spouse
and I in our home state of Illinois.”
The marriage bill stalled in the House
after clearing the Senate on Valentine's Day.
Illinois is one of four states where
gay and lesbian couples are recognized with civil unions, not
marriage – the other three are New Jersey, Hawaii and Colorado.
Following a Supreme Court decision in June which gutted much of the
Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the federal government started
recognizing the unions of gay couples in a marriage, leaving couples
in a civil union at a distinct disadvantage in terms of benefits.
“Illinois' veterans are among those
hardest hit by the state's continued refusal to extend marriage to
same-sex couples,” Illinois Unites for Marriage, the coalition of
groups lobbying to approve the measure, said
in a press release. “According to federal statutes, the VA
will only grant benefits to service couples whose marriage is
recognized legally in their home state.”