Military families file lawsuit to challenge the so-called Defense of Marriage Act

Today, active and retired gay and lesbian service members, in partnership with the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, will file landmark federal litigation that challenges the constitutionality of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as well as several provisions in the U.S. Code.

“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 Army Veteran and SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis.  “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.”

The lawsuit comes five weeks after the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the law that prohibited gay, lesbian and bisexual service members from disclosing their sexual orientation in the military. It will take place in Boston in the same federal district court that last year ruled DOMA unconstitutional because it interferes with state recognition of marriage.

DOMA was enacted in 1996 and prohibits legally married gay and lesbian couples from receiving the same federal benefits that are ensured to different-sex couples by the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs, including housing; health care; surviving spouse benefits; military identification cards; access to bases; and morale, welfare, and recreational programs.

The lead plaintiffs in the case are Massachusetts Army National Guard Major Shannon McLaughlin and her wife Casey, who were married in 2009 and have 10-month old twins, named Grace and Grant. Shannon has served in the military for 13 years. The case also includes five other troops and two career Army and Navy veterans. Together, the plaintiffs represent 159 years of military service; serve in the Army, Air Force, Navy and National Guard; and as couples, have been together for a total of 79 years.

Freedom to Marry recently participated in the first-ever OutServe Summit to discuss issues of concern to openly gay and lesbian members of the military, including marriage. Click here to learn more about Freedom to Marry’s efforts to support gay and lesbian military families by repealing DOMA.