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Op-ed: Why Our Family Is Fighting DOMA

Op-ed: Why Our Family Is Fighting DOMA

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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we first got together, returned to the closet in many ways in order to protect my career while I served under the now-repealed "don't ask, don't tell" policy.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. https://vickihudson.com/ T/@vickigeist
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