Gay And Lesbian Service Members Sue Government

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A group of married gay current and former military personnel has sued the federal government, seeking equal recognition, benefits and the same support as married heterosexual couples.

The lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court in Boston says the government's Defense of Marriage Act violates their constitutional rights and asks the military to recognize their marriages.

The suit was filed by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) on behalf of Massachusetts National Guard Maj. Shannon McLaughlin and her wife Casey. The couple is from Foxborough.

SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis says gay and lesbian service members deserve the same protections as heterosexual couples because they make the same sacrifices.

"We're talking about military families who can deploy, who are put in harm's way, who are making sacrifices and committing the same service to their country," said David McKean, SLDN's legal director.

Under current law, the Pentagon is required to ignore same-sex marriages.

"Casey, because she can't get a military ID, can't take the children on post to see doctors," McKean said, "can't take the children to school if they were to go to school on post. She can't go shopping at the military commissary for the family."

The lawsuit names as defendants the secretary of Defense, the U.S. attorney general and the secretary of Veterans Affairs.

A Pentagon spokesman says the military will evaluate the complaint while continuing to follow the law.

With reporting by the WBUR Newsroom and The Associated Press

This article was originally published on October 27, 2011.

This program aired on October 27, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.