In preparation for the upcoming veto session, the Illinois Unites campaign today announced Veterans Unite for Marriage, a coalition of Illinois service members and their families; these service members and their families are urging the Illinois House of Representative to pass the freedom to marry now, so that all military people can access important legal and economic protections.
“It is overwhelming to me that despite my years of service for our country, I am not afforded the same marital rights as straight couples. I fought for this country to uphold our freedoms and to allow all Americans to live and love who they wish,” said Clayton Peterson, a U.S. Army and Vietnam War Veteran residing in Rock Island. “It is sad that these freedoms do not apply to my spouse and I in our home state of Illinois.”
Illinois’ veterans are among those hardest hit by the state’s continued refusal to extend marriage to same-sex couples. On September 3rd, 2013, the Obama Administration announced that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) would begin providing benefits to gay or lesbian spouses of service members. Unfortunately, according to federal statutes, the VA will only grant benefits to service couples whose marriage is recognized legally in their home state.
Since the federal government does not recognize civil unions, Illinois service members, veterans and their spouses are being denied important protections, like survivor payments and healthcare at veterans’ medical facilities.
“After over 50 years together, I have to wonder how our love and commitment to each other is still questioned. A civil union does not hold the same meaning as marriage, and my partner Patrick and I know our love deserves recognition,” said James Darby, an 81-year old Korean War veteran. “We just want to be able to protect each other as we grow older.”
CLICK HERE to find out more about Illinois Veterans Unite for Marriage.