Friday, March 08, 2013

Til death they do part

Sixteen Democratic US Senators have urged Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to keep granting waivers so that same-sex spouses can be buried in national cemeteries. Under present law, that’s the only solution.

At the moment, spouses (and sometimes dependents) are eligible for burial with a veteran at a national cemetery. However, the notorious Defense [sic] of Marriage Act defines spouse as a husband or wife of the opposite sex and forbids the US Government from recognising legal marriages of same-gender couples for ANY federal purpose—including veterans’ burials.

As a result, the National Cemetery Administration ruled that because of DOMA, non-military individuals in same-sex civil unions or marriages with a service member or veteran are ineligible for burial in a national cemetery or state veterans cemetery that receives federal funding. So, soldiers—even those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their nation—cannot be buried with their spouse if that spouse is of the same gender. That’s obscene.

Here’s what struck me about the linked story. The reporter wrote: “But Shinseki has the authority to approve waivers as he sees fit and did so based, in part, on evidence of a committed relationship between the Oregon couple.” So, he wants “evidence of a committed relationship”? Like a marriage certificate?! Not even that would be enough, thanks to DOMA.

The graphic above is from the Facebook page of United for Marriage , a coalition fighting for marriage equality throughout the USA. It highlights one specific case in which the spouse of a lesbian soldier killed in action was treated as if she didn’t even exist. The incident is taken from the amicus brief of OutServe-SLDN, which fights for the legal rights of actively serving LGBT military personnel (the story of Staff Sergeant Donna R. Johnson was reported at the time in the Advocate).

What both of these have in common is DOMA: Marriage equality alone isn’t enough when DOMA forbids the Federal government from recognising the marriages of same-gender couples. DOMA is not just vile and contemptible: It’s sickeningly cruel.

If this is how the US Government treats the men and women who fight and even die for their country, it’s no surprise that—thanks to DOMA—civilian Americans are also cruelly treated as less than second class citizens.

Another example will be the subject of my next post.

No comments: