Just five weeks after the Pentagon ended the ban on homosexuals serving openly in the military, gay and lesbian service members are filing a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) announced the filing of the federal litigation Thursday. The group is suing U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki, on behalf of current and former service members.
Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, told The Christian Post today she’s not surprised by the lawsuit because the Department of Defense’s authorization of military chaplains to perform same-sex ceremonies last month was essentially “an invitation to litigation.” The current administration “wants to eliminate DOMA using the military as a battering ram,” she said.
The lawsuit will also challenge federal code provisions regarding spousal benefits provided by the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Military I.D. cards, military base access, spousal support groups and burial rights at national cemeteries are among those benefits.
The case was filed in Massachusetts, with lawyers planning on suing in a federal district court in Boston. Plaintiffs include Massachusetts Army National Guard Maj. Shannon McLaughlin, and her wife, Casey, along with five other troops and two career Army and Navy veterans.
Those involved in the case are legally married; the McLaughlins married in December 2009, five years after Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage. They say they want benefits for their same-sex spouses that the services and Department of Veterans Affairs provide to opposite-sex couples.
Donnelly says the lawsuit will create problems across state lines. People are going to have to ask, are “marriage benefits only extended to couples in states like Massachusetts with [gay marriage] legislation? What happens when couples move to other states where the traditional definition of marriage applies?”
Army Veteran and SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis said in a press release, “This case is about one thing, plain and simple. It’s about justice for gay and lesbian service members and their families in our armed forces rendering the same military service, making the same sacrifices, and taking the same risks to keep our nation secure at home and abroad.”
Daniel Blomberg, litigation staff council for the Alliance Defense Fund, says what the case is really about is “social engineering.” He says it sends a message that men and women are fundamentally interchangeable.
He also said, if passed, the lawsuit will create problems for military chaplains. He cited the military program Strong Bonds, whose website states, “is a unit-based, chaplain-led program which assists commanders in building individual resiliency by strengthening the Army Family.”
Many army chaplains that participate in the Strong Bonds program will be unable to lead a program “encouraging people to protect unions they see as immoral,” Blomberg said. “Chaplain are going to be forced out of that program, and commanders and servicemen that have objections will be punished for their views.”