This morning, eight current and former members of the U.S. armed services filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and “seeking equal recognition, benefits and family support for equal sacrifice and service in the U.S. Armed Forces.”
Three of the plaintiffs are lesbian moms, including lead plaintiff, Major Shannon L. McLaughlin of the Massachusetts National Guard, along with Chief Warrant Officer 2 Charlie Morgan of the New Hampshire National Guard and Lieutenant Colonel Victoria A. Hudson of the U.S. Army Reserve. Plaintiff Airman First Class (A1C) Daniel Henderson said he and his partner plan to become parents within a few years. It is clear their parental roles and responsibilities are among the factors driving their lawsuit.
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which filed the litigation on behalf of the plaintiffs, noted that Morgan’s spouse’s “inability to receive a military identification card prevents her from taking their daughter, who is a dependent with her own ID card, on post to take advantage of facilities and services otherwise available to families. ”
Morgan, a breast cancer survivor who has been recently diagnosed with a recurrence, said herself, “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.”
McLaughlin said that her spouse “is not eligible for health insurance and is unable to come onto post to make use of facilities, services, and family support services that would otherwise be available to us if we were of the opposite sex.”
And Hudson said, “I know our military places a high premium on the family. I know it is our spouses who keep the family together when we are deployed and and in harm’s way. We go, focused and mission ready, trusting our families are cared for. Gay and Lesbian service members are denied that trust.”
Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was a first step towards addressing the inequalities for lesbian and gay servicemembers. But as I reported for Keen News Service a few weeks ago, DOMA still means many benefits are denied to their families, and children are among those affected.