Attorney General Holder, Tell the VA to Grant Married Gay and Lesbian Veterans the Benefits They've EarnedRead the petition
Find out more in this article in the Washington Blade: DOJ faces renewed call to provide benefits to gay veterans
Find out more in this article in the Washington Blade: DOJ faces renewed call to provide benefits to gay veterans
Unfortunately, discrimination is alive and well in the State of Tennessee. Since our home state of Tennessee does not recognize same-gender marriage, my fiancée and I traveled to Massachusetts where we were legally married on October 18, 2013.
After returning home to Tennessee and receiving our certified marriage license, we went about changing our name on our legal documents. We made a list by priority, so naturally our first identification update was our Social Security card. According to our federal government this is “the” official document by which all legal United States citizens are identified for life, for everything that makes up a life. You cannot obtain a passport or open a bank account without one. You cannot obtain a mortgage or any other loan or form of credit without one. When you buy a car, apply for insurance, or are admitted to the hospital, your “identifier” is required. It’s the first official identification you are assigned after birth before you even know you need one to exist as a legal citizen in this great country of ours. The same country my US Army veteran spouse served and agreed to lay her life down for.
So we went into the office together and the change was processed without a glitch. We received our new cards in the mail a short week later. We opened the envelopes in excitement—at last we felt validated and equal in the eyes of our government and we paused to soak it all in! When we met 22 years ago, we’d never thought this possible in our lifetime, but it was real—our Social Security card, our legal identifier—said so! After that my spouse reported her marriage to her federal employer and her last name and marital status were immediately changed. I was listed as her legal spouse and my children as her legal stepchildren.
Next on the list to update was my driver’s license, and coincidently I received a renewal notice in the mail a few weeks after my marriage—“great timing!” I thought. On the back of the renewal form was a notice stating applicants MUST have a social security number existing in the database and the name must match. Knowing my name was already updated on my Social Security card, I assumed I was good to go.
I walked into my local DMV and presented my renewal notice. I announced to the clerk that I also had a name change and had already changed it on my Social Security card, which I presented. She stated they did not accept a Social Security card as proof of name change, so I handed her my certified marriage certificate. She processed my renewal and name change. She handed me a temporary printout with my new name to use in the interim. About a week later I received my new license in the mail. Again, an overwhelming feeling of validation!
About a week later my spouse walked into that same DMV office. She presented her Social Security card and certified marriage certificate. After the clerk perused the marriage certificate she asked my spouse outright if this was a same-sex marriage. My spouse said it was. The clerk told her she was sorry, but the State of Tennessee did not recognize our marriage and she would not be able to process her name change. She was denied. The clerk offered the suggestion of visiting the county court house to petition for a name change, which would cost about $175.
My spouse informed the clerk that she didn’t understand. Wondered how I had no problem changing mine. The clerk then copied the marriage certificate and attempted to look up my information, but could not locate it. The clerk then went to talk to a supervisor and returned to ask if I was with her. My spouse said no. The supervisor walked up and told my spouse my license would be revoked and I would have to come in and forfeit it because I was now in possession of an “illegally issued identification”—an identification they processed and issued.
Based on the legality of that statement my spouse asked if I would receive an official notice by letter informing me of the revocation beforehand. The clerk said no, but if I didn’t voluntarily return it a State Trooper would be sent to our home to retrieve it. My spouse did not know if this was simply a threat or if something was put into the system flagging my license as “illegally issued”.
My spouse called me on the way home to deliver the bad news. I was beside myself—how could this happen? A precedent was set when mine was approved–why was it different for her? I don’t understand how a state governed by the federal government can deny a legal name change regardless of “why” it was changed. I was perplexed how a request by the state to revoke my license could be made to just “pass along” from one person to another—a person the state did not recognize as my spouse. What about my right to due process? How is this legal?
And just like that, all that joy of validation was swept out from under us. We were immediately sent back to that place where once again we felt like second class citizens. My spouse was good enough to potentially die for every person in Tennessee, but in the eyes of Tennessee she is not equal to those same citizens she vowed to protect. This inequality needs to change and we are willing to stand up to help make that happen. All Americans should be afforded the same rights, especially those veteran and active duty military who have, and continue to fight to defend those very rights.
Our Mission: Connecting, supporting, honoring and serving the partners and spouses of America’s LGBT service members and veterans.
2013 was a fantastic year for our families. Through education, advocacy, and support, the American Military Partner Association is proud to have been a driving force for positive change.
When two of our military spouses were denied membership in their local military spouse clubs, we began the year by fighting on their behalf for full inclusion. After a firestorm of outrage, our work to end their exclusion was not only succesful, but ignited the national debate on the larger issue of the inequality our families faced because of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and outdated Defense Department regulations. Sharing story after story, we continued throughout the year to highlight the harm caused to our families because of DOMA. Then, in June, the Supreme Court ruled that a portion of DOMA was unconstitutional, and on September 3, our families were finally recognized by the Defense Department (DoD). Even with the support of the DoD, some state governments tried to continue to deny equal access to benefits for our families serving in the National Guard. In response, AMPA launched a successful national media campaign to ensure our National Guard families gained the equal access they deserved. We are proud of the fact that our advocacy efforts made a direct and positive impact on our military families.
Our advocacy efforts were just a small part of our accomplishments. We were proud to lead the way forward in education for our modern military families. Whether it was through our online educational webinars, our local educational events, or our participation in conferences around the country, we worked to provide our families with education on the vast array of programs and services that are available to them, and informed other organizations of the unique needs and challenges our families faced. With a dedicated and talented network of volunteers, we built positive relationships with partners and allies to build a strong educational team and serve as ambassadors for our families.
From coast to coast, and around the world, we led the effort in connecting and supporting our modern military families. Whether it was through the nation’s largest private online support network for LGBT military partners and spouses, or through our local family events, our team worked to create a positive environment that fostered mutual support and understanding. We built, and continue to build, a strong resource and support network to empower our modern military spouses and their families.
Here are just a few of our accomplishments in 2013:
Ambassadors for LGBT Military Spouses and their Families. With a commitment to building stronger alliances and raising awareness of the needs of our modern military spouses and their families, our leadership team spoke at educational conferences and events around the country, including these and more:
As well as the conferences we spoke at, we served as ambassadors for our modern military families by:
Educational Webinars. With hundreds of participants, we were proud to host online educational webinars designed to inform and empower our LGBT military spouses and their families, including:
Local Educational Events. We were also proud to continue our partnership with the San Diego Navy Fleet & Family Support Program and the San Diego LGBT Community Center for a monthly LGBT Military Family Support Group. Each month featured a guest speaker and topic to help support and educate LGBT military spouses and their families.
Educational Publications. We were proud to produce several educational documents and guides, including:
Advocating for LGBT Military Family Needs. Nothing is more important to our leadership team than being ambassadors for our LGBT military spouses and advocating on their behalf. By standing up for our proud military families, in 2013 we served our members and the LGBT military community by:
Advocating for LGBT Military Spouses and their Families in the Press. We realize that working to improve the lives of our LGBT military spouses and their families requires not only working behind the scenes, but working to gain public support and pressure to make change happen as well. With hundreds of earned media stories in outlets around the world, in 2013 AMPA became the leading LGBT military family advocate in the press, including through broadcast media like CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and Fox News, as well as major print media outlets like the New York Times, the Washington Post, the LA Times, Chicago Tribune, USA Today, and many, many more.
Joining Forces. We were proud to join forces with other organizations to advocate for LGBT military spouses and their families, including at these events and more:
Faces of Our Families. Through our couples profiles and through our social media outlets, we shared the stories, photos, and videos of hundreds of our families, advocating for inclusion, equality, support, and understanding. Our Facebook page alone had a daily average reach of well over 22,000 unique users.
Local LGBT Military Spouse & Family Events. AMPA connected LGBT military spouses and their families around the country with local modern military family events, designed to bring together our families and allies in a positive environment to build mutual support and understanding in over 33 locations.
Dramatic Growth. Increasing our ability to connect and support our LGBT military partners, spouses, and their families and allies, AMPA continued to explode with growth in 2013:
Local AMPA Networks. Designed to connect local families or help foster mutual support in common areas, AMPA started 34 networks across the country and around the world.
AMPA Modern MilSpouse Blog. Giving voice to the unique perspectives, challenges, and celebrations of our LGBT military spouses and their allies, AMPA was proud to continue our Modern MilSpouse Blog in 2013. AMPA was proud to publish 42 blogs on a wide variety of topics and concerns directly affecting our modern military families.
AMPA Rainbow Railroad. Because not all of our same-gender military couples are stationed in a state that grants them the same rights, protections, and responsibilities as their heterosexual counterparts through marriage, AMPA members and supporters around the country volunteered to open their homes for the AMPA Rainbow Railroad and host military couples as they travelled to marriage equality states to get married, helping them limit costly expenses.
Direct Support. Through programs like our AMPA New Military Spouse Mentor Program and direct one-on-one support from our leadership team, AMPA assisted well over 2,600 LGBT military partners/spouses.
2013 Outreach Campaign. From the east coast to the west coast, and many locations in between, in our largest outreach campaign event yet, we were proud to reach and support LGBT military spouses and their families in over 29 locations around the country.
Thanks to our all-volunteer staff, AMPA is able to do a LOT with a little. Adding to our already proven record, we are proud of our accomplishments in 2013. As a non-partisan, non-profit 501(c)3 organization, we are committed to making a difference in the lives of our military families, and we have so much more to accomplish for our families in 2014. Consider making a tax-deductible contribution to help us continue our work.
The American Military Partner Association cordially invites you to join our LGBT service members, partners, spouses, allies, and special guests for our inaugural AMPA National Gala. www.MilitaryPartners.org/Gala
The American Military Partner Association is proud to launch the AMPA Rainbow Railroad! AMPA members and supporters across the country have volunteered to open up their homes and host other AMPA members on their journey to marriage equality states to get married, helping them limit costly expenses. It’s our own aboveground rainbow railroad to marriage equality states! Find out more here!
If sequestration isn’t stopped, ALL the benefits we have fought for will be threatened in some way. The American Military Partner Association is proud to join the campaign to end sequestration led by the National Military Family Association. Some of the things that could happen based on information from Department of Defense (DoD) officials include:
Find out more about how sequestration impacts our military families here.
Sign the petition now to tell the Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana National Guard to stop discriminating against our military families!
As I sit here typing in the wee hours of the morning, I’ve got my six day old daughter Jordan sleeping on my chest. She’s a miracle, pure and simple, like we all are (though we tend to forget) and it’s still hard to believe she’s really laying right here, breathing and making cute cooing noises and working on her next dirty diaper. More than one time, I’ve held my own breath to make sure I can hear hers, and I have every time. I am really that blessed.
Judith, my partner, lies exhausted beside me, catching a few winks between Jordan’s breast-feeding binges. In 2009, we’d tried to get Judith pregnant using a doctor and an anonymous sperm donor, only to give up when we found some medical issues that stacked the odds against conception for Judith. Last summer, we tried again, one time, with the help of a donor we know and love and who loves us. The fact of Judith’s immediate conception with Jordan astounded us. In fact, it was so hard to believe that Judith took three separate pregnancy tests before she called her doctor to set up a pre-natal appointment. Throughout Judith’s pregnancy, we’d look at the sonogram pictures, or feel for Jordan’s kick in Judith’s belly, and just marvel that this could be true.
Even before Jordan, I felt incredibly blessed in my life with Judith. We’ve been together for over ten years. That whole time, I’ve found myself at some point pretty much every day pausing to close my eyes in a brief prayer of gratitude for our life together. We just seem to “fit” each other—we enjoy each other, work well together to tackle projects and problems, and we bring out the best in each other. We love each other, and it is a love that encompasses sex but also so much more.
Judith and I married in 2005, in a private ceremony with our parents in Maui that meant everything to us but nothing in the eyes of the law. Three years later, when same-sex marriage became legal and open to out-of-state visitors in California, we flew out to claim our moment in history. On a Friday afternoon, we married in a civil ceremony at the courthouse in Marin County. The following Tuesday, voters responding to a church-funded campaign against same sex families adopted Proposition 8 taking away our right to marry. But California’s Attorney General chose not to apply Proposition 8 retroactively, so our marriage remains legal and valid—in certain states and countries. In Texas, where we live, voters amended the state constitution in 2004 to avoid recognizing our marriage. And under that amendment—our Texas version of California’s Prop. 8—for the purposes that matter most to us, our marriage license is really just a fancy piece of paper we keep locked away, unless we travel out of state.
Right now, the purpose that matters most to us is our new daughter, Jordan. A few days ago in the hospital, I helped Judith fill out the “vital records” form for her and had to tell her to check the box for “single” instead of “married.” I wept bitterly in anguish over that denial of my love and my family. I thought of (and felt like) the disciple Peter denying Jesus, to whom he had sworn “even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” I can’t even write about this or talk about it without crying, it’s so awful. And that little box matters so much for us right now.
Under Texas law, a baby that is conceived through artificial insemination is automatically, by law, the child of the mother’s legal spouse. Checking that little box on the vital records form is how a mother claims those parental rights for her spouse. But under Texas law, Judith can’t check “married” and she can’t identify me as Jordan’s other parent—even though we are legally married (in California) and I am in every way that matters Jordan’s parent. Oh, I suppose we could have checked the box, but we couldn’t risk that Jordan’s birth certificate would get tied up in some administrative limbo. We need that birth certificate right away, to add Jordan to Judith’s health insurance. We also need it to get Jordan a military ID so I can bring her on base to visit Judith when Judith is at drill, or doing her annual two weeks service later this year. Under the Army’s existing interpretation of DOMA, I still can’t get one of those ID’s as Judith’s spouse.
Checking that box also matters to our family’s finances. In December, we paid a lawyer several thousand dollars to file a petition for me to adopt Jordan. Though the first weeks of a new baby’s life are the last time when new parents need extra things to worry about, we’re in the process of preparing for a social study of our household. We can’t afford to wait until life calms down—at any moment, something could happen to Judith or she could be deployed, and we need the adoption processed as quickly as possible so that I can protect and take care of our new daughter. Technically, under Texas law, we’re not even supposed to be able to perform the adoption this way—we have to follow a “back alley” procedure that gets our case before the right judge. And there are many politicians out there, right now (including Paul Ryan), who are advocating for laws prohibiting gays from adopting children. Prohibiting me from adopting my little girl.
And don’t think that because we have good earning potential, it’s just an inconvenience for us to pay for an adoption. The money we’ll spend adopting Jordan is money we could have spent on her care and education. It would have paid for everything we needed as new parents to take care of her in her first year. It would have covered the costs of her birth by Cesarean section. It would have covered the added COBRA health insurance premiums Judith paid for the luxury of quitting her overly stressful job in the last few weeks of her pregnancy. It would have paid for a lot of things. And what about the families who can’t afford to pay a lawyer like we can?
I’m already steeling myself against what I’ll hear on the news and read in my friends’ Facebook posts as the Supreme Court starts to hear oral arguments about the laws that put us in this situation—the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8. How it hurts to see Christians lining up in solidarity and shouting to the rest of us (literally and virtually in online forums) that the badge and banner of their Christian faith is opposition to the legal recognition of my family!
Today, I’m busy being a new mother and trying to create a positive atmosphere in my home. I’m not going to respond to your posts or post anything of my own. But I will say this: Think and pray hard about the fact that you would deny to us what you enjoy for yourselves, in the name of the one who taught that God’s law could be summed up in one rule: “do to others what you would have them do to you.” (Matthew 7:12). I know you are trying to honor God, but you are in fact hurting God’s children: me and millions of your other brothers and sisters. Your dogma—which isn’t universally accepted even among Christians—has caused us economic hardship, when we couldn’t purchase health insurance, didn’t obtain death benefits, paid extra taxes, paid lawyers to draw up documents for us or help us adopt our own children, or lost jobs where being gay wasn’t acceptable to someone. Your dogma has destroyed families, leading parents to disown and abandon their gay children, separating families whose immigration status depends on the existence of a marriage, separating elderly couples who grew too frail to live independently, and causing courts to deny custodial rights to parents who loved and raised children that the law did not treat as their own. Your dogma has led to beatings, murders, rapes, and suicides. Your dogma is hurting me—someone you may know and even love—and my six day old daughter right now, here, today. And none of this is just or right.
Alicia Butler is an attorney who lives in Austin, Texas with her partner, 2LT Judith Chedville, U.S. Army National Guard.
Make Your Mark on AMPA!
The American Military Partner Association is launching a logo design contest! In order to better brand the organization to the general public as well as our members, AMPA is looking for a new logo that best represents what we stand for. The time frame for the competition will be from now until Friday, January 25th. Submit your design and make your mark on AMPA!
Follow these recommendations for a better chance at winning:
Submit Your Design to firstname.lastname@example.org
For any questions, contact AMPA at:
UPDATE: In response to the American Military Partner Association’s open letter, the Fort Bragg Association of Officer’s Spouses has attempted to solidify their exclusion of same-sex military spouses. Instead of allowing a lesbian military spouse to join, the Association responded by adding the requirement of an “active ID card” to their list of requirements on their website and Facebook page (their Facebook has since been deleted). As of 9 December 2012, this was not a membership requirement listed in either place.
More importantly, this is not a requirement listed in their bylaws which state one must only be a military spouse.
Ashley Broadway is the spouse of an active duty commissioned officer of the United States Army and should therefore qualify. Additionally, the below document was also found that outlines membership requirements which clearly only state one must be a military spouse.
This is a direct attack on same-sex spouses of service members. The Association of Bragg Officers’ Spouses has no legitimate reason to deny Ashley Broadway membership because she meets the requirements outlined in the Association’s bylaws.
Read Ashley’s original open letter here.