Pasadena veteran challenges federal Defense of Marriage Act

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The Southern Poverty Law Center has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a disabled veteran from Pasadena who was denied benefits for her female spouse. The suit charges that the federal definition of marriage is unconstitutional.

The federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman. That means same-sex couples are not entitled to the same federal benefits as other married couples.

The lawsuit was filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of retired Army Sgt. Tracey Cooper-Harris and her spouse, Maggie Cooper-Harris. Sgt. Cooper-Harris was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and received disability benefits, but not the additional compensation married veterans get, even though her marriage is legally recognized in California.

The Veterans’ Administration denial also means the couple will not be allowed to be buried together in a veterans’ cemetery.

The suit says the federal government discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation and challenges the VA’s definition of “spouse.”

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