Campaign Marks Memorial Day with Petition to End Marriage Discrimination Against Military Families

5/23/2012

 

Contact:
Jackie Yodashkin at 917-620-4502 or Jackie@freedomtomarry.org (Freedom to Marry)
Angela Dallara at 646-430-3925 or angela@freedomtomarry.org (Freedom to Marry) 
Zeke Stokes at (202) 621-5406 or zeke@sldn.org (SLDN)

WASHINGTON – As Memorial Day approaches, Freedom to Marry and Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) launched a grassroots petition calling on Congress to end marriage discrimination against service members and veterans.  The petition builds support for repealing the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and passing the Respect for Marriage Act, and is part of the new Freedom to Serve, Freedom to Marry national campaign highlighting the stories of military families harmed by DOMA.  

"This Memorial Day, we remember those who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom, but we must also recognize that our gay and lesbian service members and their families pay a price every day even as they serve our country – a price their straight counterparts are not required to pay.  It’s time to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and honor these brave patriots by treating them equally," said Army Veteran and SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis.

The petition states:

The so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) forces the military to treat married gay and lesbian service members and their families differently than it treats all other married service members and their families.  Please end this discriminatory and unequal treatment of our service members and veterans by repealing DOMA.

“When Congress repealed ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ it meant that our gay and lesbian service members could serve openly, but not -- as long as the so-called Defense of Marriage Act is on the books -- equally,” said Evan Wolfson, founder and President of Freedom to Marry.  “It is time for Congress to repeal DOMA so that service members and their families will no longer be unfairly denied important protections and so that their employer – the military – can treat all personnel and their families fairly and equally.”

The Freedom to Serve, Freedom to Marry joint campaign launched last week with the release of a compelling online video illustrating the real injury inflicted on gay and lesbian military families who, because of the federal government’s refusal to respect their marriages, are denied the support and protections that all other military families receive.  Already, the video has been viewed more than 50,000 times.

Because of the ‘gay exception’ created by DOMA, America’s legally married gay and lesbian couples are denied more than 1,100 federal responsibilities and protections including access to military medical insurance programs, Social Security survivors benefits, equal treatment under U.S. immigration laws, and the opportunity to take leave to care for a spouse.  On May 9, 2012, President Obama cited conversations with service members as part of his reason for supporting same-sex couples’ freedom to marry.  The President had already endorsed the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal DOMA, and had instructed the Attorney General Eric Holder to stop defending DOMA in the courts based on the Department of Justice’s determination that DOMA is unconstitutional.   

In October 2011, SLDN filed landmark litigation on behalf of eight married gay and lesbian service members and veterans challenging DOMA and three other federal statutes that may be interpreted to prevent the military from providing the same protections and support to all families.  For more information on the case, click here.  

Freedom to Marry's federal program works to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and make the case for marriage to government officials, opinion-leaders, and political operatives in Washington, DC. Freedom to Marry jointly leads the Respect for Marriage Coalition, a diverse group of nearly 70 organizations working together to repeal DOMA, and regularly hosts salons to engage Democratic, Republican, and independent opinion-leaders and operatives in conversations about why marriage matters to same-sex couples. Since the introduction of the Respect for Marriage Act, the bill that would restore the historic practice of federal respect for lawful state marriages, the number of cosponsors has increased from 18 to 32 in the Senate, including every Democratic member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and from 108 to 144 in the House of Representatives.

For more information on Freedom to Serve, Freedom to Marry, visit www.freedomtomarry.org/serve.

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ABOUT FREEDOM TO MARRY: Freedom to Marry is the campaign to win marriage nationwide. We are pursuing our Roadmap to Victory by working to win the freedom to marry in more states, grow the national majority for marriage, and end federal marriage discrimination. We partner with individuals and organizations across the country to end the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage and the protections, responsibilities, and commitment that marriage brings.

ABOUT SLDN: Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) is a non-partisan, non-profit, legal services and policy organization dedicated to bringing about full LGBT equality to America's military and ending all forms of discrimination and harassment of military personnel on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.  SLDN provides free and direct legal assistance to service members and veterans affected by the repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law and the prior regulatory ban on open service, as well as those currently serving who may experience harassment or discrimination.  Since 1993, our in-house legal team has responded to more than 11,500 requests for assistance. To learn more, visit www.sldn.org.  Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender service members with questions are urged to contact the SLDN hotline to speak with a staff attorney: Call 1-800-538-7418 or 202-328-3244 x100.