Atlanta, GA (JUN 26, 2013) – In yet another historic victory in the struggle for LGBT civil rights, the Supreme Court today overturned the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the law barring federal recognition and benefits to legally married same-sex American couples. This milestone by the nation’s highest judicial body demonstrates the continuing evolution of the understanding of equality and justice in a nation which holds those ideals as core principles of our democratic society. The Supreme Court has affirmed there simply is no justification to deny benefits to one legally married couple that are readily available to other legally married couples. Prejudiced policies that deny equal treatment under the law to LGBT citizens of the United States accomplish nothing more than punishing minority Americans for being different from the majority. There is no rationale in a just society for such a denial of basic rights.
In our on-going mission of obtaining equality for LGBT military service members and veterans, American Veterans for Equal Rights applauds the Supreme Court’s just decision in overturning DOMA, a law which denied equal benefits to legally married same-sex military couples and their children. In his testimony on May 31st before the United States Commission on Civil Rights, AVER National President Danny Ingram called upon the Court to repeal the discriminatory DOMA law which he described as “a blatant denial of the civil rights of our service members that creates a second and unequal class of soldier.”
“This is a huge victory for legally married same-sex service members and their children,” said Ingram. “According to the Congressional Budget Office report `Costs of Military Pay and Benefits in the Defense Budget’ dated November, 2012, benefits account for approximately two thirds of overall military compensation. DOMA prevented married same-sex couples and their families from receiving these same valuable benefits as their heterosexual counterparts, while performing the same vital duty and facing the same risks. This was an issue of equal pay for equal work, a right dear to the hearts of justice-loving Americans. This decision by the Supreme Court makes right an injustice that was offensive to the very freedom that these members of the military risk their lives to defend.”
Following the December, 2011 repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, which prevented gay, lesbian, and bi-sexual members of the armed forces from serving openly in the military, DOMA remained the single largest barrier to equality for patriotic LGB volunteers serving in the military. With the removal of DOMA, lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members will now have most of the rights afforded to other members of the military. AVER will push for a swift implementation of new inclusive polices by the Pentagon based on this momentous change.
“The fall of DOMA is a huge victory not only for LGBT Americans and the nation as a whole, which takes another vital step forward in its destiny to become the most free and diverse society in the world, but also for our nation’s armed forces,” said Ingram. “This decision by the Supreme Court allows the United States military to become true to its mission, becoming not only the guardian of our nation’s freedom, but the representative of the liberty it exists to defend.”
Transgender Americans still cannot serve in the military. AVER remains dedicated to the right of transgender people to serve in the armed forces, and our mission will never be complete until transgender patriots are allowed to serve just like other men and women in the military.
The fall of DOMA raises many questions about the legal rights of same-sex married LGBT military families in states that do not honor same-sex marriage. Many of these issues will need to be addressed in order to secure the full legal rights of same-sex couples deployed in diverse areas of the country. Additionally, the issue of inclusion of LGB service members in the Military Equal Opportunity (MEO) Program is a matter of urgency in order to protect our service members from harassment and discrimination inside the military unit where harm can be mitigated most effectively. This issue, along with the establishment of an official LGBT outreach by the VA’s Center for Minority Veterans are issues that AVER will continue to address as the armed forces and the VA experience a momentous era of change that includes among other very large developments the inclusion of women in combat units and a long overdue crackdown on military sexual assault and harassment.
AVER is the nation’s LGBT Veteran’s Service Organization, serving military personnel and veterans since 1990.
Denny Meyer, AVER Public Affairs, 718 849-5665
Danny Ingram, AVER President, firstname.lastname@example.org, 678 596-1311