Booed soldier and husband highlight why marriage matters for military couples

Army Major Stephen Hill knows what it feels like to be disrespected for being gay. Last September at a Republican presidential debate, Hill was booed by the GOP debate audience after he asked a question via video from Iraq about the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the policy that prohibited openly gay or lesbian Americans from serving in the U.S. military. Not one of the Republican presidential candidates responded to the audience's booing. The incident elicited national attention, evidence of an enormous lack of respect for gay soldiers' service to their country. 

But the debate wasn't the only time Major Hill has faced objection to his sexuality: For the past year, he and his husband, Joshua Snyder, have seen their marriage be disrespected and undervalued by the federal government.

Hill and Snyder married last year in Washington, D.C., but because of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), their relationship is not recognized by the federal government. They do not receive the same protections that different-sex couples are eligible for. 

Now, Hill and Snyder are speaking out about the inequalities that DOMA forces upon gay and lesbian service members by joining our Freedom to Serve, Freedom to Marry campaign, which we launched in May with Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. The campaign highlights the ways in which DOMA discriminates against gay and lesbian service members. 

In a new video, Hill and Snyder discuss the problems that DOMA has caused for them.

"If something happened to me, Steve would not have been able to take emergency leave, because the military cannot recognize our relationship," Snyder said. "If something terrible happened to him, I would not be considered the next-of-kin. Service members and their families making the kind of sacrifices that are required to serve this country shouldn't be treated as second-class citizens and their marriages shouldn't be treated as second-class marriages."

DOMA's "gay exception" denies more than 1,100 federal responsibilities and protections to legally married same-sex couples, including access to military insurance programs, Social Security survivor benefits, equal treatment under U.S. immigration laws, and the opportunity to take leave for care for a spouse. 

In addition to standing with Freedom to Serve, Freedom to Marry, Hill and Snyder are also plaintiffs in landmark litigation filed in October 2011 by SLDN on behalf of eight married gay and lesbian service members and veterans. The lawsuit challenges DOMA and insists that gay and lesbian service members and veterans deserve the same protections and support that all other service members receive. 

Sign our Freedom to Serve, Freedom to Marry petition HERE to stand with Hill and Snyder by telling Congress to repeal DOMA and end the discriminatory and unequal treatment of our service members.