Lambda Legal Sues on Behalf of AMPA for VA Benefits for Same-Sex Spouses

lambdalegalWASHINGTON, DC – Lambda Legal and Morrison and Foerster LLP have filed suit against the Secretary of Veterans Affairs on behalf of the American Military Partner Association (“AMPA”) 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 so-called Defense of Marriage Act.

“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.” 

“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.”—Susan Sommer, Director of Constitutional Litigation at Lambda Legal

AMPA, the petitioner in the case, is an advocacy organization dedicated to supporting partners and spouses of LGBT troops and veterans. The petition filed in the Federal Circuit Court yesterday 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.  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.” 

“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.”

Those with questions or concerns about discrimination or denial of a protection to which they are entitled should contact Lambda Legal’s Help Desk at 1-866-542-8336 or visit www.lambdalegal.org/help.

Read the petition to the court here.

Susan Sommer is handling the case for Lambda Legal, with Paul Castillo and Tara Borelli. She is joined by Andrew Woodmansee, Jessica Roberts, and Jessica Palmer of Morrison and Foerster LLP.

Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.

The American Military Partner Association (AMPA) is the nation’s largest organization for the partners, spouses, and families of America’s LGBT service members and veterans. Founded by same-sex military partners in 2009 as the Campaign for Military Partners, AMPA is committed to education, advocacy, and support for our “modern military families.” For more information, visit www.militarypartners.org.

[From a News Release]

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