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Service members challenge gay marriage law

Oct. 27, 2011 at 1:33 AM
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BOSTON, Oct. 27 (UPI) -- Gay members of the military and veterans who say their spouses are unfairly denied benefits are mounting a legal challenge to the U.S. Defense of Marriage Act.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs plan to file a lawsuit Thursday in U.S. District Court in Boston, The Washington Post reported. The lead plaintiffs are Shannon McLaughlin, a major in the Massachusetts National Guard, and her wife, Casey McLaughlin.

The 1996 law bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages and says states do not have to recognize gay marriages performed in jurisdictions where such marriages are legal. Massachusetts became the first state to allow gays to marry in 2004.

While gays can now serve openly in the military, those who are married are shortchanged on health benefits and access to a range of amenities from military recreation facilities to burial in military cemeteries, lawyers say. Casey McLaughlin has to pay for her own health coverage, although their twins are covered by Shannon's military insurance.

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network is involved in the lawsuit.

"What Shannon and Casey are seeking is the same treatment that their straight counterparts, who are legally married, receive every day without question and take for granted," said Aubrey Sarvis, the group's executive director.

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