Lesbian Army veteran rejected for VA home loan
March 18 2004 1:00 AM ET
She can serve her country, but she can't get a loan with her lesbian partner. That news has upset Marilyn Riedel, 61, a disabled Army veteran in Racine, Wis., enough to go public after she and her partner were rejected for a home loan by the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs. As the gay marriage debate rages nationwide and in Wisconsin, Riedel said she is hurt that she can't get a loan with her partner of more than eight years, Connie Guardino, 58. "It's a nonviolent revolution that's going on," Riedel said. The former Army captain is classified as 100% disabled and has trouble moving, drinking, and eating. It's difficult for her to talk because her worsening Parkinson's disease makes her tongue quiver. When she was a captain in the 1960s, 130 soldiers served under her as they helped operate a communications center near Camp David. But she said she struggled to hide her sexual orientation.
Now she is relieved to have someone to look after her, but she wishes she could qualify for a low-interest veterans loan. Her income is too low to qualify on her own, and the state won't allow anyone but a spouse to be a coapplicant. "A spouse is an individual who enters a valid marriage contract. Unless the law is changed, there is no way that we can change that," said Andrew Schuster, spokesman for the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs. "We go directly by the statutes. We don't have any authority to vary that."
"This is a civil rights issue," said Guardino. "What's the difference?"