Life

Rights of same-sex military spouses still vary by state

This Aug. 20 2014, photo shows a framed photograph of marriage partners Jessica, rear, and Nivia Huskey, a Marine corporal currently deployed in Kuwait, at their home in Jacksonville, N.C.
This Aug. 20 2014, photo shows a framed photograph of marriage partners Jessica, rear, and Nivia Huskey, a Marine corporal currently deployed in Kuwait, at their home in Jacksonville, N.C. Gerry Broome, AP

The Huskeys both grew up in an area dominated by peach orchards outside Gaffney, South Carolina. They were good friends in high school and began dating while in college.

Cpl. Huskey enlisted with the Marine Corps within days of the 2012 repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” They got married last year, just before the Marine shipped out for a war tour in Afghanistan.

Currently in Kuwait, Cpl. Huskey was not available for an interview.

Jessica Huskey spoke at their tidy house outside Jacksonville, a short drive north of the sprawling base where her spouse is posted when stateside. The home is filled with photos and keepsakes of their nearly 10 years together.

A lawyer, Huskey has put a lot of thought into the potential legal implications of what will happen if their baby is born before the law changes. When a married heterosexual woman has a child in North Carolina, the law presumes her husband to be the biological father – even if the child was in reality conceived through an extramarital affair or by using a reproductive donor.

“A straight couple could be in the exact position we are, their child conceived in the exact same way, but automatically that parent is considered to be the other parent, regardless,” Huskey said. “That isn’t fair.”

With her spouse barred from having any parental rights, Huskey worries what might happen if she were to get sick or die in an accident. Though she intends to draft a will expressing her desire for their son to remain with her wife, there is no guarantee a state judge will follow those wishes – especially if Jessica Huskey’s blood relatives fight for custody.

In an emergency, Cpl. Huskey won’t be able to make health care decisions on behalf of their child without presenting a medical power of attorney signed by Jessica Huskey. When it comes time to register for public school, the Marine once again won’t be recognized as a parent.

“What other parent has to carry around a power-of-attorney for their child?” Huskey asked. “How much sense does that make?”

The baby will qualify for federal family benefits through Cpl. Huskey’s military service, but only if she registers the child as her stepson.

“I know that’s hard to swallow for Nivia,” Huskey said. “For her, that’s not her stepchild. That’s her son.”

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