Gay soldier booed at GOP debate joins suit

Nov. 7, 2011 at 6:00 PM
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COLUMBUS, Ohio, Nov. 7 (UPI) -- A gay soldier booed at a Republican presidential debate and his husband have joined other same-sex married military couples suing Washington for equal rights.

U.S. Army Capt. Steve Hill and Joshua Snyder of Columbus, Ohio, joined a lawsuit asking the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages because it is the states' role, not the federal government's to decide what constitutes a marriage.

Six states plus the District of Columbia, and Oregon's Coquille and Washington state's Suquamish Indian tribes recognize same-sex marriage.

The lawsuit argues gay military couples should be afforded the same benefits as opposite-sex couples, including spousal insurance, survivor compensation and acknowledgment of family-member status.

Military spousal benefits, for instance, are not permitted to go to same-sex spouses under the law.

"This is not for money or for back-paid benefits or anything like that," Snyder, 31, told The Columbus Dispatch. "We just want to know that the next time he deploys, I'll be called if something happens."

Hill, 41, serving in Iraq, made headlines Sept. 22 when he spoke by video at a GOP presidential debate.

"In 2010, when I was deployed to Iraq, I had to lie about who I was because I'm a gay soldier and I didn't want to lose my job," he said in the video. "My question is: Under one of your presidencies, do you intend to circumvent the progress that's been made for gay and lesbian soldiers in the military?"

Some people in the audience booed him.

The lawsuit, filed in Boston by eight gay couples, challenges the constitutionality of 1996's federal Defense of Marriage Act, which bars federal recognition of same-sex marriages, said David McKean, legal director of Washington's Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and an attorney for Hill and the other plaintiffs.

Besides arguing it is not Washington's role to define marriage, the plaintiffs argue the act violates the constitutional right to equal protection under the law.

President Barack Obama in February directed the Justice Department to stop defending the act against such lawsuits.

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