Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) endorsed marriage equality today. Her statement about why focuses on a lesbian couple, one of whom serves in the Alaska National Guard.
Murkowski says their lack of access to marriage forces the couple into “a second-class existence.” She notes:
After their years of sleepless nights, after-school pickups and birthday cakes, if one of them gets sick or injured and needs critical care, the other would not be allowed to visit them in the emergency room – and the children could possibly be taken away from the healthy partner. They do not get considered for household health care benefit coverage like spouses nationwide.
Before 2011, it would have been a lot harder for this couple to lobby their senator, because the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy would have forced the woman who serves in the National Guard into the closet.
And that’s the main reason that the repeal of DADT was such a big defeat for social conservatives. The change didn’t just make it easier for gays to serve openly in the military—it made it possible for them to make their presence known and demand equal rights, including equal marriage.
Military spouses are the biggest political threat to marriage inequality at the federal level. Social conservatives are now forced to argue that same-sex military spouses should be denied health benefits, housing benefits, death benefits, and more. This is not sustainable political ground.
Who is going to argue against this couple, say Murkowski is wrong, and insist that denying them the same treatment given to other military families is in the national interest?
This is why gays and lesbians have a duty to come out. Politicians who change their mind on gay marriage tend to be responding to constituents who ask for equal rights. We can only do that if we make ourselves known.
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