Federal lawsuit by American Military Partner Association seeks veteran benefits for same-sex spouses
WASHINGTON, D.C. (August 21, 2014) – Represented by Morrison & Foerster and Lambda Legal, the American Military Partner Association (AMPA) has filed suit against the Secretary 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 the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
The petition filed in the Federal Circuit Court on August 18 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 Department of Veterans Affairs (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. The petition further states, “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.”
“It is simply unacceptable to see AMPA’s members not only discriminated against in their home states where their marriages are disrespected but also turned down by the federal government for basic veterans’ benefits for their spouses,” said Stephen Peters, president of AMPA, Marine veteran, and spouse of an active-duty Marine. “Our members will be denied pension and survivors’ benefits, home loan guarantees, and other earned veterans’ benefits.”
“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.”
Ms. Sommer is handling the case for Lambda Legal, with Paul Castillo and Tara Borelli. She is joined by Morrison & Foerster San Diego litigation partner Andrew Woodmansee and litigation associate Jessica Roberts, as well as Washington, D.C. litigation associate Jessica Palmer.