While mourning the loss of her wife, Army Staff Sgt. Dice confronts DOMA discrimination
January 09, 2013
This fall, Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Donna Johnson was killed while serving in Afghanistan. Now, her wife, Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Tracy Dice, is mourning the death as any other spouse would, trying to come to to terms with the loss and honor the life of the woman she loved.
But because of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits federal respect of Dice's lawful marriage to Johnson, Dice must confront an additional challenge in her grieving process. DOMA restricts Dice from accessing a wide range of protections - including survivor benefits for spouses of fallen soldiers - that would have been provided to her had she been in a different-sex relationship.
According to the American Military Partner Association, one of the leading support organizations for partners and spouses of gay and lesbian service members in the U.S. military, Dice and Johnson are the first same-sex married military couple to have suffered a casualty since the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' in 2011.
In a new video from this week, Dice speaks out about her wife's death. She says, "Three soldiers lost their lives, and all three of them were married. But one of the soldier's spouses was treated as if she was single."
Since Dice also serves in the U.S. military, she is eligible for her own health insurance and other protections - including commissary and exchange privileges and access to military bases. But for hundreds of other spouses of gay and lesbian service members who don't also serve in the military, DOMA restricts them from accessing dozens of protections that are extended to military partners in different-sex marriages.
Dice continues in the video, "If another gay spouse is to go through this and they don't have family support and they are not in the military - it's too easy for them to get shut out and not have any rights whatsoever. The military can't do anything without DOMA being changed."
Since May, Freedom to Marry and OutServe-SLDN have worked to shine a light on how the Defense of Marriage Act hurts gay and lesbian service members and their families through our Freedom to Serve, Freedom to Marry campaign.
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.
The campaign has so far taken in-depth looks at many stories of military families and examines the struggles and challenges they face because of DOMA. 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. And in September, we saw Major Shannon McLaughlin and her wife Casey discuss the challenges of raising two twin children given the restrictions DOMA inflicts on the U.S. military's treatment of same-sex couples.
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.