HRC Calls On Veterans Administration to Fully Implement the Spirit of Windsor Decision

by Charles Joughin

WASHINGTON – Today Human Rights Campaign (HRC) president Chad Griffin wrote to Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki urging him to apply a broad interpretation of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor, to ensure recognition of veterans’ same-sex spouses regardless of where they live. After last year’s Windsor ruling invalidating Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, most federal benefits became available to all legally married same-sex couples—regardless of whether their state of residency recognizes same-sex marriage. Because of an anomaly in the law, the Veterans Administration only recognizes married same-sex couples who currently live in marriage equality states.

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.  

In his letter to Secretary Shinseki, Griffin writes:

“The denial of this most basic benefit violates the dignity of all LGBT veterans and is fundamentally inconsistent with the mission of the Department of Veterans Affairs. We urge the Department to take all steps within your purview to end this harmful, needless discrimination and to ensure all veterans the basic dignity of burial beside their spouse. Contrary to the broad standard of recognition currently utilized by the Department of Defense for active duty military personnel, the VA’s current limited recognition policy will undoubtedly leave thousands of families in the same position as Ms. Taylor simply because of where they live.” 

To read HRC’s full letter to Secretary Shinseki, click here.

The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.


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