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On Anniversary of Landmark Legal Challenge Filing, Lead Plaintiffs Call for Freedom to Marry

For Immediate Release:
Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Contact: Angela Dallara (Freedom to Marry) at (646) 430-3925 or angela@freedomtomarry.org 
or Zeke Stokes (SLDN) at (202) 621-5406 or zeke@sldn.org

On Anniversary of Landmark Legal Challenge Filing, Lead Plaintiffs Call for Freedom to Marry

(Washington, DC) – Freedom to Marry and Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) today released a new online video featuring Major Shannon McLaughlin of the Massachusetts National Guard and her wife, Casey, who one year ago this week became lead plaintiffs, represented by SLDN, in a landmark federal court case on behalf of married gay and lesbian service members and veterans. The case challenges the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and other federal laws that force the military to withhold equal respect, support, and benefits from LGBT service members, veterans, and their families.

“Shannon and I are in love. We have two beautiful children. We have a lovely home and a supportive community, family that’s close by that loves us. We would have everything that a family could want. The only thing that’s standing in the way is DOMA,” says Casey McLaughlin in the video.

DOMA currently prevents the Armed Forces – and all other employers – from treating the couple as what they are: legally married. Because of DOMA, the McLaughlins are thus denied all protections, benefits, and support that would flow to non-gay married military families —even though their employer, the military, would prefer to treat them and families like them the same as any others serving the country. Protections denied include health care, housing benefits, access to military facilities, and survivor benefits. For example, the couple is forced to buy separate health insurance for Casey at great financial burden to the family.

“Even with my service in the military and as the breadwinner of the family, I am prevented from providing benefits for my wife - and she’s the mother of my children staying home to take care of them,” said Major McLaughlin.

Freedom to Marry and SLDN leaders today praised the couple for their service to the nation and vowed to keep up the fight to repeal federal laws that prevent all military families from being recognized.

"What this video shows is that while Major McLaughlin serves our country in harm’s way, the so-called Defense of Marriage Act shamefully harms her, her wife, and their kids, by denying them the critical safety-net of thousands of protections and responsibilities that married couples like them are entitled to," said Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry. "With court after court rightly holding DOMA unconstitutional, we must make sure stories like the McLaughlins are heard in Congress, which can and should repeal DOMA, and the Supreme Court, which can take one of the DOMA cases before it and move to end federal marriage discrimination. It’s time to dump DOMA and let the military do right by all military families."

“Just as we did in the battle to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ we must not let up on any front. Together, we will continue to fight in the courts and on Capitol Hill to ensure that the families of brave gay and lesbian service members, serving our military with distinction, are honored by the nation they serve and treated as equals. There cannot be two classes of service members,” said Army Veteran and SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis.

Because of the ‘gay exception’ created by DOMA, America’s legally married gay and lesbian couples are denied more than 1,100 federal responsibilities and protections, including access to military insurance programs, Social Security survivors benefits, equal treatment under U.S. immigration laws, and the opportunity to take leave to care for a spouse.

Freedom to Marry's federal program works to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and make the case for marriage to government officials, opinion-leaders, and political operatives in Washington, DC. Freedom to Marry jointly leads the Respect for Marriage Coalition, a diverse group of nearly 75 organizations working together to repeal DOMA. Since the introduction of the Respect for Marriage Act, the number of cosponsors has increased from 18 to 32 in the Senate, including every Democratic member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and from 108 to 151 in the House of Representatives. On October 18, 2012, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals struck down DOMA, marking the tenth federal ruling stating that the so-called Defense of Marriage Act’s gay exception is unconstitutional.

For more information on Freedom to Serve, Freedom to Marry, visit www.freedomtomarry.org/serve.

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ABOUT FREEDOM TO MARRY: Freedom To Marry is the campaign to win marriage nationwide. We are pursuing our Roadmap to Victory by working to win the freedom to marry in more states, grow the national majority for marriage, and end federal marriage discrimination. We partner with individuals and organizations across the country to end the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage and the protections, responsibilities, and commitment that marriage brings.

ABOUT SLDN: Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) is a non-partisan, non-profit, legal services and policy organization dedicated to bringing about full LGBT equality to America's military and ending all forms of discrimination and harassment of military personnel on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. SLDN provides free and direct legal assistance to service members and veterans affected by the repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law and the prior regulatory ban on open service, as well as those currently serving who may experience harassment or discrimination. Since 1993, our in-house legal team has responded to more than 11,500 requests for assistance. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender service members with questions are urged to contact the SLDN hotline to speak with a staff attorney: Call 1-800-538-7418 or 202-328-3244 x100.

 

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