HRC Calls for Equal Veterans Benefits
May 2, 2014 by Jennifer Pike Bailey, Senior Public Policy Advocate
After last year’s landmark Supreme Court decision invalidating Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, most federal benefits are now available to all legally married same-sex couples—regardless of what state they live in. But there are still some agencies that have not fully implemented this ruling.
Because of an anomaly in the law, the Veterans Administration is only recognizing married same-sex couples who currently live in marriage equality states. That means that even if a couple was legally married in Maine, their marriage won’t be recognized if they move to Florida.
The impact of this lingering inequality was apparent in Idaho recently, where Madelynn Taylor was denied the right to have her late wife, Jean Mixner, be buried alongside her in the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery. Earlier this week, Barry Johnson, a 27-year Army veteran from Potlatch, Idaho, graciously offered his own plot so that Madelynn and Jean could be buried side by side. Johnson explained:
“[Madelynn] cared for another person with all her heart and had to watch that person die. She is a veteran. She loves her country. She wants her partner by her side and she wants to eternally rest among veterans in the state she made home. Madelynn, you deserve that.”
HRC President Chad Griffin has called on VA Secretary Shinseki to apply a broad interpretation of the law to ensure recognition of same-sex married couples regardless of where they live.
HRC has also been working with our friends on Capitol Hill to remedy this problem. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Mark Udall (D-CO), as well as Representatives Adam Smith (D-WA), Dina Titus (D-NV) and Tim Walz (D-MN) have introduced legislation to address this issue in Congress.
HRC thanks all of these incredible allies for fighting for the rights of all veterans and their families.
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