Military Veterans, Service Members and Advocates Call for Equality Ahead of Memorial Day

May 22, 2013, 10:45 ET from Respect for Marriage Coalition

WASHINGTON, May 22, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In advance of Memorial Day, the Respect for Marriage Coalition hosted a call featuring Former Congressman, Army Captain and Iraq War Veteran Patrick Murphy, Outserve-SLDN Executive Director Allyson Robinson, American Military Partner Association Director of Family Affairs Ashley Broadway and military widow Karen Morgan to highlight the harms of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) on the nation's military and to urge the Supreme Court to strike down the discriminatory law and extend the freedom to marry nationwide.

According to Gallup, LGBT Americans make up 3.5 percent of the overall population. Assuming the same proportion of LGBT service members exists among the 1.5 million active and reserve members currently enlisted in the armed forces, between 50,000-60,000 members of the military would be unjustly affected by DOMA if or when they are married. 

While DOMA harms all married same-sex couples, it is particularly hostile to those serving in the military, where 70 percent of an active-duty service member's compensation comes in the form of benefits and allowances. Withholding such a significant portion of these benefits, which are intended to care for the spouse of a military member, inflicts significant financial burdens on military families headed by same-sex spouses.

"The harms of DOMA aren't abstract—they are real tangible injustices that hurt children and their parents," said former Congressman Patrick Murphy. "For those serving our country, equality delayed is equality denied. The same benefits and opportunities should be available to every service member and their family."

Yesterday, Freedom to Marry and OutServe-SLDN released a video that tells that story of Karen Morgan who, because of DOMA, faces innumerable challenges following the loss of her wife, CW2 Charlie Morgan of the New Hampshire National Guard.

"DOMA haunts almost every aspect of my family's life, and it doesn't measure up to our values of freedom and equality that we've set as a standard for our way of life in the United States," said Morgan. "It's time for the best of who we are as a nation to prevail so that equality is applied fairly to all the citizens of our country."

"Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan was a courageous fighter for our country, for her family, and for the equality of all who wear the uniform of our nation. Today, her wife Karen carries on that fight, a fight no military spouse should ever have to wage. The time has come to end the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and ensure equal recognition, benefits, and support for all loving and committed military couples and their families," said Army veteran and OutServe-SLDN Executive Director Allyson Robinson.

Because DOMA defines marriage for federal purposes as "between one man and one woman," same-sex military couples cannot qualify for many protections available to other couples, including health care, housing assistance, primary next of kin status and survivor's benefits.

"For far too long, our LGBT military families have been treated as if they aren't important and as if they don't matter," said Ashley Broadway of the American Military Partner Association, the nation's premier resource and support network for LGBT military families. "We serve our nation, but without the same support and benefits needed to care for our families. For the sake of our children and family readiness, we must end the discrimination and exclusion caused by DOMA."

Next month, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule in United States v. Windsor, which challenges the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. If DOMA is struck down, the Court's ruling would have an historic and monumental impact in establishing equal treatment for all service members and their families.

Below are some of the specific benefits that are not extended to same-sex military families.


Married Military Families

Same-Sex Military Families

Housing: The Basic Allowance for Housing and the Overseas Housing Allowance comprise the largest cash portion of a military member's overall compensation.

Receive an average increase between $24 and $1,041 per month in housing allowance while stationed in the U.S.

Are not guaranteed to receive the increased benefit.

Healthcare: TRICARE provides service members with free health and dental insurance.

Little to no out-of-pocket expense.

Pay annual average of $5,615 in out-of-pocket expenses. 

Employment and Education: The Post-9/11 G.I. Bill allows eligible service members to redeem or transfer education benefits to family members.

May transfer a family member up to: $18,077 in tuition, $1,000 per year to cover supplies and books, and a housing allowance averaging $1,200 per month.

Are not permitted to transfer G.I. benefits to their same-sex spouses.


Honoring Families: The same-sex spouse of a deceased or disabled service member is not able to access the full scope of benefits and compensation provided to other families.

Spouses are designated as Primary Next of Kin.

Spouses are "designated persons"— but will not be notified first.

Spouses of active duty personnel receive a nontaxable cash payment of $100,000.

Are not guaranteed this benefit. 

The Respect for Marriage Coalition is a partnership of more than 100 civil rights, faith, health, labor, business, legal, LGBT, student, and women's organizations working together to end the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and grow support for the freedom to marry.  The Coalition is co-chaired by Freedom to Marry and the Human Rights Campaign.

SOURCE Respect for Marriage Coalition