In October of 2011, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network filed a federal lawsuit (McLaughlin v. Panetta) asserting that the denial of “same recognition, family support and benefits” for gay military members and their married partners is unconstitutional. And today the Obama administration has announced they now believe that the legislation that bans same-sex couples from receiving military benefits violates the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment and they will no longer defend the statute in court. Congress may still choose to do so, but it is an important step nonetheless. Aubrey Sarvis of SLDN released this statement: “We are pleased that the Attorney General has decided not to defend the constitutionality of DOMA in the military context, just as he has declined to defend it in other contexts. We are also delighted that, for the first time, he has said that separate definitions that apply to military veterans are also unconstitutional. This is an important step for the McLaughlin plaintiffs.”
This should be a lesson to everyone, especially Obama supporters, that we can and we SHOULD be pushing the Obama administration to step up on LGBT equality issues – not waiting and hoping that Obama will somehow transform himself into a true “fierce advocate” on his own after the elections. Our time is now. We must take it!