Major Shannon McLaughlin of the Massachusetts National Guard and her wife Casey are the stars of a new video being put out by Freedom to Marry and Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. The two are lead plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging the Defense of Marriage Act and other federal laws which require the military to discriminate against LGBT servicemembers, veterans and their families.
Casey McLaughlin says in the video that “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.”
DOMA prevents the military from recognizing the legal marriages of those in the military if the spouse is of the same sex as the service member. The Military and the Federal Government, though, recognize opposite sex marriages.
According to SLDN “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.”
Major McLaughlin stated that “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.”
Freedom to Marry and SLDN leaders praised the couple for their service and stated:
“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.