Frontlines: The Latest from OutServe-SLDN
SLDN Calls on Panetta to Expedite DADT Discharge Upgrades. This week, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) praised U.S.Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Joe Lieberman (I-CT),and Mark Udall (D-CO) for their letter sent to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and joined their call for the Secretary to use his authority to streamline the process for those discharged under the repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) law in order to expedite discharge paperwork changes and upgrades. To view the news release and letter, click here. This news was covered widely by media, including The Hill and The Advocate.
SLDN Included in Amicus Brief in Case of LGBT Veteran. Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP filed an amicus curiae brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims in their case, Cardona v. Shinseki, arguing that laws denying gay and lesbian veterans the spousal benefits they have earned, and which Congress has determined are necessary to support their families, “serve only to discriminate against gay and lesbian veterans” and “must be struck down as unconstitutional.” The brief was filed on behalf of SLDN, Vietnam Veterans of America, Service Women’s Action Network, Connecticut Veterans Legal Center, Vets4Vets, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. To read more, click here.
OutServe Capital Summit Coming in May. SLDN is proud to partner with OutServe for its first-ever Capital Summit, which will bring service members and their families to Washington, DC, May 14-15, 2012, to learn more and discuss issues affecting LGBT military families. The Summit begins Monday with a day of panels and meetings followed by visits to Capitol Hill on Tuesday, organized in close cooperation with SLDN. To learn more or register for the Summit, click here.
04-27-12 By Zeke Stokes, SLDN Communications Director | Comment (0)
DOMA Taxes Military Families Unfairly. SLDN's lead plaintiff in the case McLaughlin v. U.S., which challenges the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and three other federal statutes that prevent equal benefits and support for all military families, published an op-ed piece this week highlighting the difficulties that tax day brings for married gay and lesbian service members and their families. To read the op-ed, click here.
SLDN and OutServe Partner on New Weekly Podcast. SLDN and OutServe have partnered to bring you a weekly podcast, a ten-minute look at timely news and information related to LGBT military service. The podcast is hosted by MC1(SW) Jeremy Johnson, a U.S. Navy reservist and member of SLDN's Military Advisory Council. To listen to the most recent podcast and subscribe to future editions, click here.
04-20-12 By Zeke Stokes, SLDN Communications Director | Comment (0)
For seven years, I have run a tax center for the National Guard. This year we will produce more than 1800 federal and state returns for service members and veterans in our community. I am very proud of this work, and I love working with the clients who walk through the door. But to be honest, every time a same-sex married couple walks in, I cringe.
Filing taxes is a dreadful enough prospect for most Americans, but for Americans who happen to be in a same-sex marriage, it’s a nightmare. While most married couples gather their receipts, W2s, mortgage interest documents, and medical and daycare expenses, same-sex married couples have to hunker down for the added prospect of producing multiple returns and "dummy" returns.
Let me explain.
I am in a same-sex marriage. My wife Casey and I live in Massachusetts, and under state law, we are required to file either "married filing jointly" (most common and usually most advantageous) or "married filing separately" for our state taxes. Those are our only options. For the purposes of federal taxes, however, because of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), my wife and I are legal strangers.
So what does this mean as April 17, 2012 rolls around? My wife and I have to go through the following process:
First, we put together and file two separate federal tax returns, each filing as single people. Then, because the state requires us to file as a married couple and all state returns are derived from the federal return, we must create a “dummy” federal return in order to draw the numbers to create our state return. So, instead of one federal return and one state return like our straight counterparts, our family produces three federal returns and one state return.
Now I know all of this sounds like a lot of busy work, and some may look at it like it is only an irritation. Unfortunately, though, there are real, bottom-line financial impacts for our family and the families like ours that come to my tax center as a result of being forced by DOMA to file these separate returns. For example, if we were allowed to file jointly, since my wife stays at home with our two children, we would be able to include her as a dependent on our family’s federal income tax return. But because I am forced to file with a "single" status known as “Head of Household," we lose thousands in deductions and exemptions. In our case, that equals well over a thousand dollars in our refund.
Then, as an extra special gift from DOMA, since my wife cannot be on my health insurance, we paid nearly $700 a month for a separate health insurance plan for her. Yet, we cannot even deduct that expense from our taxes.
So as we wrestle with our shoebox of receipts and the ticker tape from the calculator that streams down the side of the desk, Casey and I are reminded once again why this fight for equality matters. It's time to honor all love and commitment - and all American families - on Tax Day and every day.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: MAJ Shannon McLaughlin is a United States Army Major in the Massachusetts National Guard and serves as a Judge Advocate General (JAG). Her current military assignment is Chief of Legal Assistance for the Massachusetts Army National Guard. She has served for 13 years and is married in the State of Massachusetts to Casey McLaughlin. They are the proud parents of sixteen-month old twins, Grace and Grant. They are lead plaintiffs in SLDN's landmark litigation challenging DOMA and other federal statutes on behalf of service members and veterans.
For more information on how LGBT families are subjected to unequal taxation and undue burdens at tax time, click here.
04-16-12 By By Major Shannon McLaughlin; Boston, MA | Comment (0)
SLDN Seeks to Expedite McLaughlin v. U.S. This week, SLDN filed a new motion in its case challenging the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and three other federal statutes that prevent equal recognition and benefits for gay and lesbian service members, veterans, and their families. The motion sought to establish a deadline for intervention by Speaker John Boehner's Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) but was denied by the court on Thursday. Said SLDN Legal Director David McKean: "While we were hoping to expedite BLAG's decision to intervene or not, we nonetheless expect that the Speaker's attorneys will seek to intervene shortly and the case will move forward once the stay is lifted on April 28." For more on this, click here.
It's Time to Honor All Military Families. This week, SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis published a new piece on Huffington Post, praising the White House for its inclusion of LGBT service members, veterans, and their families in its outreach efforts since the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." However, Sarvis points out that until laws like DOMA are repealed, there can be no equality for all military families. Read his post here.
Joining Forces...and Moving Forward. Meanwhile, SLDN Government Affairs Director Jeremy Wilson-Simerman attended the one-year anniversary celebration of Joining Forces, the initiative founded by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden to honor military families. Click here to read about his trip to the White House Wednesday and his conversations with the First Lady and Dr. Biden regarding SLDN's work on behalf of LGBT military families.
SLDN Announces 2012 LGBT Pride Schedule. On Thursday, SLDN released its schedule of LGBT Pride Festival appearances across the country in 2012. Click here to see the schedule and volunteer to help in your community.
04-13-12 By Zeke Stokes, SLDN Communications Director | Comment (0)
One mission. Full equality.
Starting this weekend, SLDN will be taking that message to LGBT Pride events all across the nation as our work continues to achieve full LGBT equality in our military. Repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) was a monumental achievement, but it did not level the playing field for LGBT service members and veterans. Whether it's fighting for equal benefits and recognition for all military families, providing free legal services to LGBT service members and veterans, or supporting transgender military service, SLDN will remain on the frontlines until the job is finished.
This weekend, we’ll kick things off in Miami, and we hope you can join us. If not, there are opportunities to participate in our Pride activities through October. Check out the full list below, and sign-up to volunteer at an event near you! Just a few hours will make a huge difference for our men and women in uniform.
Miami, FL — 4/15/2012
Honolulu, HI — 6/2/2012
Boston, MA — 6/9/2012
Washington, DC — 6/10/2012
Columbus, OH — 6/16/2012
Denver, CO — 6/16-17/2012
Portland, OR — 6/16-17/2012
New Orleans, LA — 6/24/2012
New York City, NY — 6/24/2012
San Diego, CA — 7/21-22/2012
Las Vegas, NV — 9/8/2012
Austin, TX — 9/22/2012
Orlando, FL — 10/6/2012
Atlanta, GA — 10/13-14/2012
04-12-12 By Danny Hernandez, SLDN Pride Coordinator | Comment (0)
On Wednesday, I attended the one-year anniversary event for Joining Forces at the White House. Joining Forces is a national service venture started by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, dedicated to shining a light on the sacrifices made by military and veteran families and creating an avenue by which a grateful country can honor those families.
The audience of service members, government officials, business and nonprofit leaders sipped from hot coffee and cider during the cold, outdoor presentation. The Air Force band Sidewinder delivered the heat and got the audience members clapping and tapping their feet with a set of three or four songs, belting out a great rendition of Adele's "Rolling in the Deep." After the band played, Dr. Biden and the First Lady listed the accomplishments of Joining Forces' first year, among them helping train future physicians on the symptoms of PTSD, helping to secure jobs for veterans and military spouses, and increasing education opportunities for military children forced to move from state to state, as well as returning veterans who wish to further their education.
At the conclusion of the event, a receiving line was set up and I was able to speak with both Dr. Biden and the First Lady. I expressed SLDN's gratitude for the administration's help in repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and let them know that SLDN looked forward to continuing to work with the White House and Joining Forces to help all service members and their families - including LGBT military families. Both Dr. Biden and the First Lady lit up with huge smiles and communicated to me just how happy they were that DADT was dead. They also expressed a sincere desire to continue to work with us as we fight for full equality for every military family.
As Joining Forces moves into its second year, SLDN will work closely with the administration to ensure that LGBT service members and their families are represented and that the White House understands the special circumstances and sacrifices that come with being the spouse or child of an LGBT service member. It's great to know that Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden will be fighting alongside us.
Follow Jeremy on Twitter @wilsonsimerman
04-12-12 By Jeremy Wilson-Simerman, SLDN Government Affairs Director | Comment (0)
SLDN Highlights Work on Behalf of LGBT Veterans. SLDN is working continually to reach LGBT veterans who were discharged for sexual orientation - during DADT or before - to ensure they are aware of our free legal services aimed at helping change or upgrade their discharge paperwork. This can be important for reasons of dignity, benefits, and future employment. On Friday, The Advocate published an op-ed by SLDN Legal Director David McKean aimed at reaching this audience. To read the op-ed, click here.
Action in DOMA Cases. On Wednesday, a federal appeals court heard oral arguments in the cases of Gill v. Office of Personnel Management and Massachusetts v. United States. For a full analysis by reporter Chris Geidner of Metro Weekly, who was in Boston to attend the proceedings, click here.
SLDN Clients Speak at Historic Norwich University Pride Event. Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan of the New Hampshire National Guard and her wife, Karen, keynoted the first-ever LGBT prom at Norwich University last weekend. Karen writes about their appearance and their ongoing fight for equality in a new blog post. To read it, click here.
Knights Out Makes History. SLDN's Aubrey Sarvis and David Hall attended the inaugural Knights Out Dinner at West Point last weekend. Sarvis writes about the historic event in a new blog post. To read it, click here.
SLDN Joins National Call to Action on Trayvon Martin Case. This week, SLDN joined a coalition of national LGBT organizations seeking justice in the Trayvon Martin Case. To read the letter, click here. On Thursday, Washington Post editorial writer Jonathan Capehart praised SLDN and other LGBT organizations for this letter. To read his column, click here.
04-06-12 By Zeke Stokes, SLDN Communications Director | Comment (0)
Last week was an historic one for Norwich University in Northfield, VT. Indeed, it’s obvious that the end of the school year is going to be very different from the beginning.
The first class of cadets to allow members in their ranks to openly admit their sexual orientation will graduate in a few weeks. Thanks to the end of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" (DADT), this will be true nationwide. Although private schools may not have banned LGBT students from their campuses, DADT was an obvious career ender for any gay student who wished to pursue a career in the military.
Norwich is special because one of their graduating cadets, Joshua Fontanez, has brought vision, passion and a sense of fairness to campus in the form of a LGBTQA club, which first met on the night of the repeal. This week saw the group host the nation’s first Pride Week to be held on a military college’s campus.
Vermont - and Norwich University - are used to being leaders on social issues. Norwich was one of the first schools to allow female cadets, and Vermont led the way in creating civil unions and then marriage equality for LGBT citizens. Saturday night, members of Norwich University’s club presented Josh with an award, which will become an annual tradition for the club. Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin opened the event by speaking about Vermont’s leadership on social issues such as abolishing slavery and creating equality for LGBT citizens.
Charlie and I were the keynote speakers at Saturday night’s prom. We saw obvious ties between Charlie’s experiences and those of the LGBT students at the school. In our speech, we reflected upon those similar experiences and offered encouragement and support for students to make a difference just by being who they are.
We lived - and Charlie taught high school - in a rural Kentucky community that seemed destined to be mired in discriminatory thoughts and practices forever due to the religious and political influences of their past. It could be a dangerous place to live or go to school as an openly gay person. There were no community or state laws to prevent harrassment or hate crimes. Bullying was not just an issue - it could be an everyday occurance.
To our amazement, we saw the community slowly open and accept LGBT students by allowing same-sex partners to attend prom and be represented in the school’s yearbook. Change was accompanied by struggle and resentment, but members of the school administration stepped up and backed Charlie’s decisions to recognize LGBT students. Just like the military, Pendleton County didn’t implode or disappear from the face of the earth just because it began to accept gay people in its community. Life continued as normal for most heterosexual people, but it became a little better for the LGBT students and citizens who lived there.
Charlie wasn’t able to give her speech on Saturday night due to her illness which has affected her voice in the last few weeks. We’ve talked about the irony of this because she has so much to say, and it’s frustrating to her to not be able to do it. We wrote the speech together so there was a give and take built in. Her stories and experiences were interspersed with my own thoughts and encouragements. We had planned to take turns speaking, but I ended up reading the whole speech that night.
Our main message was to pursue the things that you might think are impossible. Take the road less traveled. Make the hard decisions. Those are the the things that will make the world a better place. We never contemplated the possibility that we might sue our own government until the need arose. When that time came, we realized that it is possible to stand up for your rights and still love your country and want to be of service. Each step of the way has brought difficult decisions, but we’ve made them together and supported each other through each one. This is what families do for each other. You are never alone.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Karen Morgan is the wife of Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan of the New Hampshire National Guard. The two are plaintiffs in SLDN's landmark case on behalf of married gay and lesbian service members and veterans challenging the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and other federal statutes that prevent the military from providing the same recognition, support, and benefits to all military families. CW2 Morgan is battling incurable, stage IV breast cancer. They have a five-year old daughter, Casey Elena.
04-05-12 By Karen Morgan | Comment (0)
Online survey released to gauge LGBT military health ...Read More
04-03-12 By Stuart I. Quinn, Program Coordinator, MPFC | Comment (0)
Saturday night, SLDN Development Director David Hall and I had the privilege of visiting West Point to attend the inaugural Knights Out Dinner on the historic campus honoring Captain Jonathan Hopkins, a 2001 graduate - and so many past, present, and future. It was an honor to celebrate the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) with Knights Out co-founder and West Point Board Member Sue Fulton and many other friends who were a force in helping us get repeal. LGBT cadets, graduates, friends and family gathered at the West Point Club to celebrate and salute distinguished LGBT alumni as well as the next generation of our leaders.
Such a gathering would not have been possible a few months ago - at least not without dire consequences. Indeed, this is why we fought, to be here in the open and to make sure there would be no consequences when we say who we are and toast our soul mates. Frankly, it was down right exhilarating to be in from the wilderness and in the club sitting down to a drink and a meal.
Imagine. We were right there Saturday night at the West Point Club celebrating the freedom to serve. And everyone else was going about his or her business. No big deal.
While there is much more to get done, this weekend tells me we do have much to celebrate. I am grateful to all those who made Saturday night's historic event possible.
04-02-12 By Aubrey Sarvis, Army Veteran & SLDN Executive Director | Comment (0)