This Fourth of July the words "with liberty and justice for all" may seem to ring empty for many of our nation's bravest citizens. Included in our nation's Pledge of Allegiance, the phrase is supposed to represent the idea that each citizen is equal under the law. It represents the concept that every American is free and not to be "deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law," as indicated in our Bill of Rights. However, if we are going to continue to carry the banner of the "land of the free," there must continue to be change in the "home of the brave." This is because the very brave we speak of are being denied liberty and equal protection under the law.
Recently, MA2 (SW) Brian Double and Joseph Robinson were married in Washington, D.C. MA2 (SW) Double has shown that we are indeed the "home of the brave" by continuing to put his life on the line in order to defend the ideals and freedoms this nation holds dear. Yet while he serves his nation honorably, his nation does not recognize his marriage, simply because he is not heterosexual. This sadly means a host of problems for his family.
As a military family, service to this nation comes with challenges that accompany the military lifestyle. Despite the fact MA2 (SW) Double is legally married in Washington, D.C., the military denies care and support to his husband Joe. Joe is denied access to the military's medical and dental insurance, military family-support programs, relocation and transportation support when it's time to move (again) to a new duty station, employment and education support for spouses, family separation allowance during deployments, and even surviving spousal benefits if (heaven forbid) his husband were to lose his life in service to our nation. He is denied legal services, military family housing, shopping on base, and on and on it goes. All these support programs and benefits are designed to help the military family, yet because they are tied to the federal definition of marriage, gay military families are treated as if they don't need or, even worse, don't deserve this help.
Are we still the land of the free if we continue to deny the brave the ability to marry their loved one? Despite the challenges of equality we still face as a nation, I do believe we are the land of the free. We still have far to go in terms of liberty and justice for all, but thanks to those who refuse to settle for the status quo, our nation moves forward. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "I say to you that our goal is freedom, and I believe we are going to get there because however much she strays away from it, the goal of America is freedom." Change just doesn't happen, though. It is up to us as Americans to continue to push for equality.
This time of year, as we celebrate our nation's independence and the freedoms we as Americans hold dear, we must remember the brave men and women who allow us to enjoy that liberty. Although we have a ways to go in reaching our ideals, I continue to "pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, with liberty and justice for all."