By Kira Zalan |
You've probably heard this a lot: the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act bars legally-married gay and lesbian couples from accessing more than 1,000 federally-granted obligations, benefits and rights of marriage. But what does that really mean?
Well, it means that anywhere that "marriage" or "spouse" is mentioned in federal law, legally-married gay and lesbian couples are cut out of the law's implications. Though legally granted and recognized in their state, their marriages simply don't count in the eyes of the federal government.
This has truly horrific consequences. Army Staff Sergeant Tracy Johnson is a perfect and tragic example. Tracy married Staff Sergeant Donna Johnson just months before Donna was deployed to Afghanistan. When the unthinkable happened, and Staff Sergeant Donna Johnson was killed by a suicide bomb, Tracy didn't learn the news from the government she fights for and her wife died serving. Instead, she had to find out from Donna's mother. Because of DOMA, as it is called, Tracy isn't considered next of kin—or any kind of kin for that matter.
Tracy wasn't guaranteed transportation to receive her wife's casket as it returned to American soil. Unlike heterosexual widows and widowers of war, she wasn't automatically given the flag that draped that casket on its way home. She had to depend on the kindness of Donna's family to receive her wife's wedding ring—it, too, had been classified a "personal effect" and sent to Donna's mother instead of Tracy.
Gay and lesbian couples get married for similar reasons as anyone else. They spend their lives together and merely want the same respect for that commitment that any other couple receives. Sometimes they serve their country together. Sometimes they raise a family together. But whatever their individual circumstances, we have a national duty to afford them the equal protection of the law.
That's why DOMA must be struck down.
About Chad Griffin President of the Human Rights Campaign
Penny Nance President and CEO of Concerned Women for America
Stacey Long Director of Public Policy and Government Affairs at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
Chris Gacek Senior Fellow at the Family Research Council
John C. Eastman Chairman of the Board of the National Organization for Marriage