Lead plaintiffs in DOMA case call for the freedom to marry in new video
October 23, 2012
This week marks the first anniversary of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) announcing the filing of McLaughlin v. Panetta, a landmark lawsuit challenging the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. Now, the lead plaintiffs in the case - Major Shannon McLaughlin of the Massachusetts National Guard and her wife Casey - are speaking out against DOMA in a new video. The video is the latest in our joint Freedom to Serve, Freedom to Marry campaign, which we launched with Servicemembers Legal Defense Network in May.
Major McLaughlin and her wife Casey married in Massachusetts, and although they're legally married, they don't receive over 1,000 protections and responsibilities afforded to different-sex married couples. That's because DOMA forbids the U.S. military - as well as all other employers - from respecting their marriage, even though their employer would prefer to treat them and families like them the same as any others serving the country. DOMA prevents Shannon from including Casey on her health care plan, and the couple had to go through a lengthy court order process to ensure that both women would be recognized as parents.
In the video, Major McLaughlin talks about their twins - Grace and Grant - who are nearly two years old. She says:
One of the reasons that getting married was so important to both Casey and I was that we knew we wanted to have children. We knew that it was very important to us to do all that we could to legally protect our family. And there are so many protections that go along with being married when you have children that happen automatically. You'll hear people say that it's just a piece of paper, but it's so much more than that.
Freedom to Marry's founder and president Evan Wolfson praised Major McLaughlin and her wife for their service to the nation today in a release. Wolfson said:
What this video shows is that while Major McLaughlin serves our country in harm's way, the so-called Defense of Marriage Act shamefully harms her, her wife, and their kids, by denying them the critical safety-net of thousands of protections and responsibilities that married couples like them are entitled to. With court after court rightly holding DOMA unconstitutional, we must make sure stories like the McLaughlins are heard in Congress, which can and should repeal DOMA, and the Supreme Court, which can take one of the DOMA cases before it and move to end federal marriage discrimination. It's time to dump DOMA and let the military do right by all military families.
Aubrey Sarvis, an Army veteran and the Executive Director of SLDN, also commented on the fight to repeal DOMA. Sarvis said:
Just as we did in the battle to repeal ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' we must not let up on any front. Together, we will continue to fight in the courts and on Capitol Hill to ensure that the families of brave gay and lesbian service members, serving our military with distinction, are honored by the nation they serve and treated as equals. There cannot be two classes of service members.
Shannon and Casey are not alone in their frustrations with the discriminatory DOMA; servicemembers with same-sex partners are not afforded many of the protections guaranteed by the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs. These federal protections for married military couples include shared health insurance and medical coverage, military identification cards, the ability to live together on military bases, support from morale and welfare programs, and surviving spouse benefits.
Since May, Freedom to Marry and SLDN have been highlighting the dozens of ways that service members in same-sex relationships are discriminated against and treated differently than different-sex couples. In June, Army Captain Steven M. Hill explained that if something were to happen to his husband Josh Snyder, Capt. Hill wouldn't be allowed to take a mourning leave from the military. In July, we heard Army National Guard Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan tell her story of battling incurable stage 4 breast cancer - and explain that should she not survive, her wife, Karen, would be unable to access the survivor benefits that she needs in order to take care of their five-year-old daughter.
Over the course of the campaign, over 30,000 supporters have signed our petition to repeal DOMA on behalf of military families. Our federal team has been using those signatures to lobby key members of Congress and show them that DOMA damages our armed services and disrespects our service members.