WASHINGTON Today, the American Military Partner Association ( AMPA ) announced that Edie Windsor, the lead plaintiff in United States v. Windsor, and Jim Obergefell, the named plaintiff in Obergefell v. Hodges, will be honored at the 3rd Annual AMPA National Gala, presented by USAA the nation's biggest LGBT military event of the year. Both LGBT equality advocates will be honored for their role in securing critically important benefits for the same-sex spouses of LGBT service members and veterans from the U.S. Department of Defense ( DoD ) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs ( VA ) through their landmark cases decided by the Supreme Court of the United States.
"Edie Windsor, Jim Obergefell, and the other plaintiffs who stood up to challenge discriminatory marriage laws have changed the lives of LGBT military families forever," said AMPA President Ashley Broadway-Mack. "Because of their bravery and willingness to fight injustice and discrimination, the same-sex spouses of LGBT service members and veterans finally have access to the crucial help they need and deserve from the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs. We are proud to honor both Edie and Jim at the 3rd Annual AMPA National Gala with the AMPA National Equality Award."
A lifelong advocate for LGBT equality, Edie Windsor was the lead plaintiff in United States v. Windsor, decided by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 26, 2013. The court's historic decision in Windsor overturned Section 3 of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act ( DOMA ) which prevented the federal government from recognizing the legal marriages of same-sex couples. Thanks to Windsor's victory, the U.S. Department of Defense ( DoD ) was finally able to recognize the same-sex spouses of LGBT service members and extend to these military families the critically important benefits that help with the challenges of military life, like healthcare, housing benefits, access to on base support programs, and so many more important resources and programs.
However, while the DoD finally recognized the legal marriages of same-sex couples, far too many barriers still existed for LGBT military and veteran couples. Many couples stationed in non-marriage equality states had to travel long distances to a state that would allow them to marry, only to return back home to a state that denied them recognition at the state level, leading to complicated and confusing challenges. To further compound the problem, while the rest of the federal government began recognizing all legal marriages, the VA would not fully recognize the legal marriages of same-sex couples for the purposes of veterans benefits because of its governing statute which required them to look to the state of residency rather than the place of marriage when determining the validity of a marriage. AMPA eventually filed its own lawsuit against the VA challenging that policy and the denial of equal benefits to veterans with same-sex spouses in non-marriage equality states.
That discrimination finally ended with the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision in Obergefell v. Hodges affirming a constitutional right to marriage equality for same-sex couples throughout the United States. Joined by dozens of other plaintiffs in that case, Jim Obergefell's name is now etched in history as the named plaintiff. Thanks to the determination of Obergefell and the other plaintiffs to challenge discriminatory state laws, the court's historic decision led to the VA fully recognizing the same-sex marriages of veterans, finally granting them access to the full range of benefits they earned serving our nation.
At the event, AMPA will also honor Obergefell v. Hodges plaintiffs Thom Kostura & Ijpe DeKoe, AMPA members who were one of the dozens of plaintiffs in the case. Thom and Ijpe went from a pre-deployment marriage to accidental activists for nationwide marriage equality. Their personal story of the impact of marriage inequality on LGBT military families helped to shape the court's historic decision leading to nationwide marriage equality.
The 3rd Annual AMPA National Gala, presented by USAA, will be held on Saturday, May 7th, 2016, at the Hyatt Regency in Washington, DC, on Capitol Hill. Attended by hundreds of LGBT service members, veterans, military spouses, and allies from across the country and around the world, the event celebrates and honors our nation's modern military families for their service and sacrifice. Tickets and more information are available at www.MilitaryPartners.org/Gala/
The American Military Partner Association ( AMPA ) is the nation's largest organization of LGBT military spouses, their families, and allies. With over 45,000 members and supporters, AMPA is committed to education, advocacy, and support for our "modern military families."