Here we are again. Fighting for spousal rights that we shouldn’t have to be fought for anymore. It seriously becomes more tiring and annoying each time.
Earlier this month, the House Committee of Veterans’ Affairs rejected a proposed amendment to the Our Vets Deserve Better Act. Currently, same-sex partners/spouses of U.S. veterans have to fight to receive benefits. If by chance they live in a state that has not yet legalized marriage equality, they aren’t able to receive spousal benefits. It doesn’t matter where the military couple tied the knot. It’s solely dependent on where they live currently.
The failed amendment would have allowed all veteran same-sex spouses to receive benefits, regardless of where they live.
The Supreme Court’s ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013 made it necessary for the military to change its policy toward same-sex military members and their spouses. In the fall of 2013, same-sex military couples began to receive benefits, regardless of what state in which they were located. By law, the military has to give equal benefits to all current military members, regardless of sexual orientation.
Let’s pause and think about this. The military must recognize all couples, regardless of sexual orientation. This is not dependent on location of said couples. Yet veterans are excluded. How could the United States blatantly forget past service members and their families? How does being former military exclude you from the protection current military members and their families receive? Why does it switch from being a federal matter to a state matter?
According to the article, “House panel rejects spousal benefits for gay veterans,” committee chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) is quoted as saying this about the rejected amendment:
Deference to the state is not motivated by hostility, it is motivated by adherence to the Constitution.”
I understand it would be naive to think Miller, a Republican, would ever stand by a federal deference over a state deference. Republicans are well known for their desire to conservatively advocate for states’ rights. Which is fine, except when states’ rights involve taking away my rights.
I wonder if they’ve ever heard of Thomas Jefferson. He was an advocate of states’ rights back in the 1700s. He also happens to be the man who wrote the Declaration of Independence. In the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
It seems to me that a person can have deference to the state, while at the same time believing that everyone is equal, with certain unalienable rights. I think Rep. Miller needs to take some tips from former President Jefferson. I think states deciding a various array of semi-important issues is fine. However, I think states deciding whether or not I am treated like an equal member of society within their border is absolutely not OK. Why is that even something that could differ depending on where you live? Why will the value of my wife’s service fluctuate and change depending on where we will live once she is out of the military?
Related: Are Y’all Sisters or Something?
Jefferson is also the person who inspired the Establishment Clause in the U.S. Constitution. The Establishment Clause refers to the part of the First Amendment that states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Rep. Miller and everyone else who voted against the proposed change, if you want to adhere to the Constitution you should start with the First Amendment. I personally have nothing against people who don’t agree with my beliefs. But the moment someone with different beliefs tries to take away my freedom to live out what I believe, I gear up to fight.
I’ll wrap this up with a proposal to all of you reading this. If you have empathy for my family’s pain and the pain of so many others who have to fight every day for their rights as human beings, get out and vote! Change the future of our country. Elect new and improved representatives and senators in Congress– people who aren’t going to vote down a proposal to treat all people equally, regardless of sexual orientation. Your vote makes a difference and nothing will ever change without it.