Client Spotlight: Major Shannon McLaughlin Fights for Same-Sex Rights in the Military

Since the beginning of our country’s history, Americans of all walks of life have fought to defend their basic human rights.  It is an action that we hold dear to our hearts because it’s what our nation was built upon.

But try defending your rights while also risking your life to defend others? Over the past several years, the human rights issue of same-sex marriage and the obtainment of spousal rights has been making positive headway from state-to-state legal systems. Not as fast as we’d like but it’s getting there. Nine states and the district of Columbia recognize same-sex marriage. However, if you’re a federal employee, for instance, your job is to protect rights abroad on behalf of your country, your marriage isn’t recognize and is virtually inexistent.

Our good friend and client, Major Shannon McLaughlin, has been servicing the United States military for over 14 years. Shannon and her wife, Casey McLaughlin, live in Foxborough with their two children, Grant and Grace. The problem that Shannon runs into on a daily business is keeping her marriage under wraps from her job and peers. Her wife, Casey, is fearful of reaching out to other wives for support and most importantly, cannot obtain the military’s benefits.

Under the Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA, Shannon and Casey may not publicly declare or even attend military functions, nor is Casey allowed access to the military’s grocery stores, recreational activities for children, base exchange, or the bowling alley. DOMA has been criticized by the Obama Administration as unlawful as it “violates the fundamental constitutional guarantee of equal protection” by denying thousands of married same­sex couples “an array of important federal benefits that are available to le­ gally married opposite­ sex couples.”

The US Supreme Court case on gay marriage will held on March 27th to hopefully work towards repealing DOMA. If so, the full benefits of the military, such as health care and housing, would be granted to same sex couples.

What is more inspiring is that Shannon is taking an action into her own hands as one of the lead plaintiff’s in McLaughlin v. Panetta, which is a lawsuit that seeks medical, dental, housing, and survivor’s benefits for gay military spouses. “It is something I struggle with,” she says. “I don’t want anything extra that others don’t have. Just let me provide for my wife like any other person in the military.”

Check out Shannon’s full feature on the Boston Globe below, or simply click here for the link: