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Op-ed: Why Our Family Is Fighting DOMA

Op-ed: Why Our Family Is Fighting DOMA

Editor’s Note: This represents the author's
personal opinion and does not reflect the opinions or policy of the United
States Government, Defense Department, United States Army or Army Reserve.

 

I do not ask for special treatment, nor extra consideration.
I ask only that my family be acknowledged. My wife, who was considerably “out”
when we first got together, returned to the closet in many ways in order to
protect my career while I served under the now-repealed “don't ask, don't tell”
policy. Thanks to her support, over the past 10 years when I was mobilized
three times in response to the September 11 attacks, I was able to leave my
civilian and family responsibilities in her hands.

Each time, she was cut off and alone, without
support from my unit of assignment — no  outreach from any military deployment support agency, no
access to the many benefits that my legally married compatriots in arms
received, no communication officially via the command family readiness channels,
or unofficially via the family member telephone tree. With no community and no
connection, she was completely isolated.

DADT is gone, and with it the need to hide, yet she
remains unacknowledged and without the security that I should be able to
provide her through my service. She can't be added to my health plan. She is
not calculated into the family separation benefit. I do not receive pay at the
dependent rate that includes her.

Recently, we attempted to register her into the
military’s benefits system as my spouse. 
We were turned away. We then designated her as the guardian to receive
benefits on behalf of "my" daughter (she is the birth mother). That’s
something a recognized spouse would not need to do. We were issued a letter she
would have to show and were told that anything she purchased at the exchange or
commissary would be scrutinized by the store representative to ensure that it
was an appropriate purchase for direct use of the child only — to the point
that if the representative felt the food was not age appropriate, the purchase
would be denied.

My challenge of the Defense of Marriage Act is about
more than just ensuring that my pay includes the increased amounts paid to
other service members that have a recognized spouse. The laws that deny
recognition of legally married, same-sex military couples prevent access to the
many family support resources that my, and your, tax dollars fund. For
instance, as a result of the Army's Family Covenant originally signed in 2007
and reaffirmed in 2009, support was garnered from 39 Fortune 500 companies who have
helped to find jobs for more than 41,000 military spouses through the Army
Spouse Employment Program. 

The Strong Bonds
program that falls under the Army Family Covenant for funding is similar to
unit stand-downs: It's a retreat-based program in which family members get away
from work and home to build stronger relationships, one
specifically intended to assist service members and their families with
weathering the demands and sacrifices that have the potential for negatively
impacting their family quality of life. These are outstanding and beneficial
Army programs that have great worth and value. Gay and lesbian spouses are denied
participation because federal law does not recognize their legally-married
status.

Why challenge the Defense of Marriage Act? Because
the law is simply wrong. DOMA is unjust, forces the military to ignore the
families of gay and lesbian service members; and disregards their sacrifices. I
am sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States, and because I believe
that DOMA is unconstitutional, I feel obligated to challenge its existence as
law of the land.

I am fortunate that I live in a country where a
common citizen is able to challenge an unjust law. I act as a private citizen,
influenced by the professional values I have learned and seen demonstrated. Duty,
honor, country: These words have meaning intrinsic to my vocation as a
citizen-soldier and member of the profession of arms.

I am perhaps a reluctant champion, as I am by
nature a private, introverted individual. But I will not remain silent, and
thus imply consent, for the disregard and disrespect of my family's existence.
The Service is blameless, for it simply follows the law. The law is unjust,
unfair, and unconstitutional. I call on my civilian leaders to remove DOMA and
associated laws contributing to the inequality I and every gay or lesbian
service member must endure.

 

Lieutenant Colonel Victoria Hudson has served
more than 31 years in the Army Reserves, a career that includes five mobilizations,
three to combat theaters. She has held a variety of staff and command positions
to include Brigade Operations Officer twice (G3/S3), two company commands and
two battalion commands. Hudson is a writer and lives with her wife and daughter in
northern California where she has several book projects in development.  http://vickihudson.com/  T/@vickigeist

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