Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) is thankful to the Huffington Post Media Group for its commitment to America's military families and for proclaiming this its second annual Military Families Week. It coincides with the first anniversary of Joining Forces, the program launched by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, to demonstrate our nation's commitment to these families who sacrifice so much for all of us. In fact, SLDN's Government Affairs director, Jeremy Wilson-Simerman, was at the White House today for a celebration commemorating the anniversary, and had the opportunity to speak directly to the First Lady about our work on behalf of LGBT service members, veterans and their families. Indeed, the White House -- and specifically, the First Lady -- have done a great deal since the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) to reach out to LGBT service members and include them and their families in their efforts to recognize their contributions to our country.
Unfortunately, there's only so much the White House -- or anyone for that matter -- can do for these families so long as discriminatory laws like the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) are on the books. That's why SLDN filed landmark litigation in October 2011 on behalf of eight married gay and lesbian service members and veterans, who are seeking the same recognition, support, and benefits for their families that are provided to all other military families. DOMA, as well as three other federal statutes -- Titles 10, 32, and 38, currently preclude the military from providing equal benefits to all families.
Perhaps no one feels the sting of this inequality more than one of the plaintiffs in the case, Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan of the New Hampshire National Guard. CW2 Morgan has served her country for more than 17 years and recently returned from a deployment to the Middle East. She is married to Karen, a part-time special education teacher, and they have a five-year-old daughter, Casey Elena. Sadly, CW2 Morgan was recently diagnosed with incurable stage IV breast cancer, and Karen had to quit work to take care of their daughter while CW2 Morgan undergoes treatment for her illness. Because the military isn't allowed to recognize Karen as CW2 Morgan's wife, she receives no health insurance, is not allowed unaccompanied on base, and will not receive the same survivor's benefits that would flow to a straight spouse if Charlie doesn't win her brave fight. Nothing could be more heartbreaking or frankly, un-American, than treating these brave gay and lesbian patriots as second-class citizens.
But SLDN is not just fighting for these families in the courts. Just as we did during the fight to repeal DADT, we are also taking the fight to Capitol Hill. We are lobbying to pass the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal DOMA, and we are working day and night to educate members of Congress and their staffs about the harm that these unjust laws do to military families.
Repeal of DADT was a monumental achievement, but it did not level the playing field for gay and lesbian service members, veterans, and their families. It's time to end these discriminatory laws, finish the job, and honor all military families.
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