News (USA)

Lambda Legal sues Veterans Affairs over denial of benefits for same-sex spouses

WASHINGTON — A leading LGBT advocacy group has filed suit against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, arguing that the denial of benefits to same-sex spouses of veterans living in states that refuse to recognize their marriages is in violation of last year’s U.S. Supreme Court’s decision striking down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Veterans-AffairsThe suit, filed Tuesday in Federal Circuit Court by Lambda Legal on behalf of the American Military Partner Association (AMPA), names VA Secretary Robert McDonald as defendant.

The petition argues that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor striking down Section 3 of DOMA specifically flagged as unconstitutional the deprivation of veterans benefits to same-sex spouses.

“The VA should not rely on discriminatory state marriage bans that have been declared unconstitutional by federal courts far and wide throughout the country as the basis to deny these spousal benefits now,” says Lambda Legal, in a statement.

“Having weathered the federal government’s past, longstanding discrimination against them, lesbian and gay veterans and their families find themselves once again deprived of equal rights and earned benefits by the government they served and the nation for which they sacrificed,” the petition states.

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“Gay and lesbian veterans have served their country and risked the ultimate sacrifice to fulfill their duty to this nation,” said Susan Sommer, Director of Constitutional Litigation at Lambda Legal.

“Married veterans and their spouses, wherever they live, need critical veterans benefits, earned through years of often perilous service, to take care of their families. No member of our community should be left behind just because their home state continues to discriminate against their marriage,” said Sommer.

AMPA, the petitioner in the case, is an advocacy organization dedicated to supporting partners and spouses of LGBT troops
and veterans.

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