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Military members still face sexual orientation discrimination

There are numerous laws in place that are meant to protect employees from discrimination. While many civil employees can fall back on state and federal protections, federal employees, such as members of the military, can only rely on the protections enacted at the federal level. Many people in Washington, DC, and across the country were convinced that repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the law that prohibited members of the military from serving openly, would eliminate the discrimination felt by many military families. Unfortunately, there are still many families dealing with how a spouse or partner fits into federal employee benefits.

There have been a handful of same-sex families across the country that have recently filed a federal lawsuit that alleges that they are the victims of unconstitutional discrimination. The families claim that they have not been able to collect federal benefits because of the Defense of Marriage Act.

This lawsuit is particularly hard for a member of the New Hampshire National Guard. She had previously been diagnosed with a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer that required a double mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation treatment. After going into remission, the cancer unfortunately came back. While a heterosexual couple would receive death benefits and burial rights without a question, the women allege that they will not, should anything happen.

The current lawsuit was filed by 16 retired and active members of the military who are affected by the alleged discrimination. They have named the U.S. Secretary of Defense, the U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Attorney General and the federal entity of the United States as defendants.

Source:, "Gay local Guardswoman faces federal legal fray," Elizabeth Dinan, Nov. 22, 2011

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