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Nation’s largest LGBT military family organization files joint brief to the Supreme Court arguing marriage inequality harms military families and veterans

Today, the American Military Partner Association (AMPA), the nation’s largest organization of LGBT military families, filed a joint brief to the Supreme Court of the United States in the case being considered that could lead to nationwide marriage equality. In the brief, AMPA and OutServe-SLDN argue that the uneven patchwork of states providing marriage equality harms military families, undermines national security, and harms veterans by cutting them off to earned federal benefits. The brief, on which the law firm Chadbourne & Parke serves as counsel, urges the Supreme Court to end the discrimination caused by the lack of marriage equality nationwide.

“LGBT service members, veterans, and their families are being cut off from important federal benefits that they earned serving our nation because they live – or are stationed in – a state that refuses to recognize their marriage,” said AMPA President Ashley Broadway-Mack, wife of an active duty soldier. “All service members, veterans, and their families deserve access to the benefits they’ve earned, and it’s time for the Supreme Court of the United States to settle this issue nationwide. A military family in California should not be treated differently from a military family in Texas.”

The brief asserts that: “…the lack of uniform marriage recognition laws from state to state for same-sex married couples poses a threat to veterans and their families. The United States government generally treats a marriage as valid if it was legal where it was celebrated. While most federal statutes follow that approach, Title 38, which confers veterans’ benefits, is inartfully drafted and Veterans Affairs (“VA”) is struggling to make sense of it. Consequently, veterans’ benefits have not yet been forthcoming to all married gay and lesbian service members.”

It continues: “It is perverse for the government to grant leave to enable a same-sex couple to travel to a state where they can legally marry, for the government to recognize that marriage as valid for however many more years the service member continues to serve, and then suddenly ignore that marriage as soon as the service member retires and obtains veteran’s status. Likewise, it would be inequitable to force veterans to move away from their homes to marriage equality states so they and their spouses can get the federal veterans’ benefits they earned.”

The brief also refers to the story of AMPA member Steven Rains: “The consequences are very real for military families. For example, veteran Don Condit died in 2013 of cancer related to chemical exposure he received while serving in Vietnam. His husband, and partner of more than 30 years, Steven Rains, would be entitled to spousal support payments of more than $1,200 per month if the VA recognized their marriage. If Steven and Don had resided in a marriage equality state at the time of Don’s death, the VA would pay that benefit. Veterans like Don Condit earned these benefits through their service and sacrifice. Military families should not be asked to make the further sacrifice of moving away from their home to a marriage equality state, just so the VA will pay them the benefits they earned.”

The entire brief can be read online here.