Retired Navy captain wants to ask the Republican Party to support the freedom to marry

Yesterday, retired Navy Captain Joan Darrah wrote a letter to the chair of the Republican Party Platform Committee, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, asking that he allow her to testify about why the Republican party should include planks in their official platform calling for the repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and support of the freedom to marry for all couples. Darrah served nearly three decades in the U.S. Navy, spending time in the service even throughout the discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, which banned open service for gay and lesbian service members. She now lives with her wife, Lynn Kennedy, in Alexandria, VA.  

In her letter to Gov. McDonnell, Capt. Darrah remembers her experience on September 11, 2001, when she narrowly missed being killed in the terrorist attacks on the Pentagon. She writes (PDF):

The events of September 11, 2001, caused us to appreciate more fully the true impact of DADT on our lives and the reality of our mutual sacrifices. At 8:30 a.m. that morning, I went to a meeting in the Pentagon. At 9:30 a.m., I left that meeting. At 9:37 a.m., American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the Pentagon and destroyed the exact space I had been less than eight minutes earlier, killing seven of my colleagues.

Whenever I recount the events of that day, I think of my wife and how she would have been one of the last people to know that I had been killed, because nowhere in my paperwork or emergency contact information had I dared to list her name. Fortunately, because DADT has been repealed, gay and lesbian service members can now serve openly without the fear of discharge. Gay and lesbian service members and their families are making the same sacrifices daily as their heterosexual counterparts. Should they not be afforded the same recognition, benefits, and support services from the country they serve? Should they not receive the same support from their "military family?  

Capt. Darrah asserts that the freedom to marry is in line with Republican beliefs, which, for many, include a commitment to limited government and the understanding that servicemembers and their families should be protected while they serve the country in the armed forces. 

Gov. O'Donnell responded promptly to the letter through his spokesman, Tucker Martin, who explained that only "official representatives" would be allowed to speak before the Republican Party Platform Committee in August. Martin told Buzzfeed:

In the weeks leading up to Tampa, the Platform Committee has heard directly from hundreds of groups and individuals regarding suggestions and proposals for inclusion in the Platform. The Committee continues to welcome submissions from individuals and outside groups via the website: www.gopplatform2012.com. However, once in Tampa, the only individuals to speak at the Platform Committee are the Platform Delegates and Subcommittee Chairs. We thank Capt. Darrah for her interest in the Republican Party Platform, and, we also hope that she will still submit her suggestions to the Platform Committee via the online submission process. 

In light of the denial of Capt. Darrah's request, SLDN is sponsoring a Change.org petition asking Gov. O'Donnell and the platform committee to listen to her speak for just 20 minutes - one minute for each year of her tireless service to the U.S. military. You can read and sign the petition here

In addition to wanting to speak with the Republican Party Platform Commtitee, Capt. Darrah and Kennedy are making their impact on winning the freedom to marry nationwide in other ways, too. They are one of the eight couples represented in SLDN's lawsuit McLaughlin v. Panetta, which challenges DOMA. SLDN filed the lawsuit in October 2011, and it has been put on hold pending the outcome of Gill v. O.P.M., another high-profile DOMA case that may be headed to the Supreme Court next year. 

Freedom to Marry has been working with SLDN extensively this year on our joint Freedom to Serve, Freedom to Marry campaign, which highlights the specific ways that DOMA harms service members in same-sex partnerships. Capt. Darrah touched on many of these disadvantages in her letter to Gov. O'Donnell, and the other seven couples in McLaughlin v. Panetta represent many more of the ways DOMA hurts military families. Earlier this summer, Freedom to Marry and SLDN lobbied members of Congress - with 30,000 signatures in hand from people who support the repeal of DOMA - to convince them that gay and lesbian service members and their families deserve the same protections that different-sex couples in the United States receive. 

Learn more about Freedom to Serve, Freedom to Marry, or sign SLDN's petition to Gov. O'Donnell HERE