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Same-sex couples in military still face challenges

From Fort Sam Houston to Fort Hood to Camp Mabry, Texas is home to several large military bases. Therefore, it's also home to thousands of Army, National Guard, Navy and other military personnel and families.

Though Texas has yet to extend equal marriage rights to same-sex couples, many nontraditional families and gay rights supporters across the state hope this will soon change as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear a case involving the federal Defense of Marriage Act this spring.

DOMA is a federal law that prevents the federal government, and therefore the U.S. military, from recognizing same-sex marriages and extending benefits to same-sex spouses. If the Supreme Court finds DOMA unconstitutional, the military would be free to offer benefits to gay and lesbian spouses.

However, for some military families across the country, these changes can't come fast enough. By being denied the same benefits and support that are automatically given to heterosexual couples, same-sex spouses say they are treated like "second-class citizens" by the country they love and serve faithfully.

One lesbian couple at Fort Bragg was denied an allowance for off-base housing. On top of that, they were not allowed to live in the on-base barracks together. After realizing that they had only about $100 a week to live on after paying all their expenses, they made the tough choice to send their four-year-old son to live with his dad in Utah because they were concerned they could not provide for him.

A second lesbian couple was in the media spotlight last week after one of the women said she was denied membership in Fort Bragg's officers' spouses club. She has been denied a spouse's ID badge, and when the club offered this week to grant her a "guest membership," she said that anything less than a full spouse's membership was unacceptable.

A third lesbian couple was asked to leave a retreat designed to help spouses who had been separated for long periods. An Army chaplain reportedly said the reason was that the retreat was sponsored by the military, which is bound by DOMA, and other couples were uncomfortable and distracted by their presence.

These three stories show that there is still a long way to go for same-sex couples to be seen as equal to heterosexual couples in the eyes of the federal government and the U.S. military. We'll all be watching closely as the Supreme Court rules on DOMA and sets the stage for continuing the road to equal rights for all.

Source: ABC News, "Same-Sex Military Couples Struggle for Recognition," Michael Biesecker and David Crary, Jan. 19, 2013

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