By Victor J. Fehrenbach, author of Out of the Blue.
The clock is ticking.
I was reminded of this stark reality early Sunday morning on 10 February when I awakened to the news that a dear friend and personal hero, chief warrant officer Charlie Morgan, lost her long battle with breast cancer. Charlie was so many things to so many people - adoring mother, loving wife, proud soldier and veteran, cancer survivor, American hero, and civil rights champion. While engaging in her second battle with terminal breast cancer, Charlie chose to selflessly tackle a more daunting task - to do whatever she could to end the discriminatory law known as the 'Defense of Marriage Act' or DOMA. She took on the public battle in the media and joined the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network's class action lawsuit as a plaintiff. Charlie didn't need this fight nor ask for it. But she took it on to protect her family after her death and to fight for thousands of service members and veterans who are denied basic rights, even after the 2011 repeal of 'Don't Ask/Don't Tell.'
Under DOMA, a federal statute enacted in 1996, US states and the federal government are not required to recognize the legal marriage of same-sex couples. DOMA codifies discrimination and denies legally-married couples thousands of basic rights, including family military benefits, insurance benefits for government employees, Social Security survivors' benefits, immigration, and the filing of joint tax returns. Finally, this March, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear a case that will eventually overturn DOMA and guarantee benefits and rights for thousands of military/veteran couples and families. President Obama has rightfully refused to defend DOMA in court, and just this past year, he has come out in support of legal rights for all same-sex couples to enjoy the rights, benefits, and privileges of marriage. What began with the repeal of DADT has accelerated the hands of time.
The clock is ticking.
Recently, we've witnessed court decisions in Mexico and overwhelming votes in both French and British parliaments supporting marriage equality. In November here in the US, three states passed marriage equality by popular vote for the first time, following 33 defeats over the last decade. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." Our march toward equality has been long, but it is moving ever faster these days.
The clock is ticking. For Charlie, we must all double our efforts to end DOMA and do whatever we can to accelerate the hands of time and ensure equal rights for all. I have no doubt that we will achieve full equality, gain acceptance, and become full citizens. It's just a matter of time. How much time it takes depends on us. The clock is ticking.
Victor Fehrenbach Lt Col, USAF (retired) is the author of Out of the Blue, published by Endeavour Press Ltd.