MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) on Monday condemned efforts by House Republicans to prevent a decorated 12-year U.S. Army veteran and other married gay and lesbian veterans from receiving the same disability benefits provided to their married heterosexual counterparts.
In an effort to deny these veterans their benefits, the group of legislators, who are part of the so-called Bipartisan Legal Advocacy Group (BLAG), moved to intervene Monday in the case filed in February by the SPLC on behalf of Tracey Cooper-Harris and her wife, Maggie.
The couple has been denied dependency benefits available to married veterans because the federal government will not recognize marriages by same-sex couples.
“This shameful crusade by Rep. John Boehner and his colleagues against our brave men and women in uniform is nothing short of disgusting,” said Christine P. Sun, deputy legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“These lawmakers are actually spending our taxpayer dollars in this fight against those who put their lives on the line in defense of our country. It’s really remarkable the lengths they will go to discriminate.”
In a letter to Boehner, the Democratic members of BLAG denounced the motion to intervene, which will be filed Monday in federal court in Los Angeles, as a new and direct assault against our nation’s veterans.
The letter from Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer also notes that the Republicans’ efforts to intervene in the case exceed the scope of the original BLAG authorization to defend DOMA.
“I am very disappointed that lawmakers claim to support veterans, but are preventing families like me and Maggie from getting the benefits we need to survive,” Tracey said.
“I dedicated 12 years of my life to defending the country I love. It’s frustrating that these lawmakers would rather use taxpayer dollars to defend discrimination instead of providing my family the benefits I earned as a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. We live paycheck to paycheck and those benefits could go a long way toward easing some of the financial pressure we face.”
In 2010, Tracey was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), which the VA has determined is connected to her military service. There is no known cure for MS, a disabling disease that attacks the brain and central nervous system. Tracey applied for additional disability compensation as a married veteran to help ensure that Maggie has some financial stability.