A retired Navy captain, Joan Darrah, sent a letter to Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell today, asking to address the Republican National Convention's Committee on Resolutions in August to talk about how the Defense of Marriage Act impacts her and her wife, Lynne Kennedy.
"Gay and lesbian service members and their families are making the same sacrifices daily as their heterosexual counterparts," she wrote. "Should they not be afforded the same recognition, benefits, and support services from the country they serve? Should they not receive the same support from their 'military family?'"
Darrah, who was in the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, called on the party also to support the right of same-sex couples to marry.
"[T]hese objectives correspond with the ideals of the Republican Party: opposition to government intrusion in people’s lives, and a modern military that supports all our service members and their families," she wrote.
Several prominent conservatives — including Vice President Dick Cheney and George W. Bush's top Supreme Court lawyer, Ted Olson — back marriage equality, but the party's presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, opposes the right of same-sex couples to marry.
The Democratic Party's Platform Drafting Committee included language supporting marriage equality when it met in July.
Darrah explains her experience, writing to McDonnell about Sept. 11:
At 8:30 a.m. that morning, I went to a meeting in the Pentagon. At 9:30 a.m., I left that meeting. At 9:37 a.m., American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the Pentagon and destroyed the exact space I had been less than eight minutes earlier, killing seven of my colleagues.
Whenever I recount the events of that day, I think of my wife and how she would have been one of the last people to know that I had been killed, because nowhere in my paperwork or emergency contact information had I dared to list her name. Fortunately, because DADT has been repealed, gay and lesbian service members can now serve openly without the fear of discharge.
However, because of DOMA, these service members, veterans, and their families are not entitled to at least 93 of the benefits afforded their straight colleagues such as health care, death benefits, or burial at national cemeteries.
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which is representing Darrah and Kennedy in a lawsuit challenging DOMA's impact on servicemembers, supported Darrah's request, with SLDN spokesman Zeke Stokes writing, "The freedom to marry — and the recognition of all marriages — is not a partisan issue. It's an American ideal. At SLDN, we are pleased that the Democratic Party has indicated it will embrace this freedom in its 2012 platform, and we are hopeful the GOP will do likewise."
Of Darrah's letter, Stokes told BuzzFeed, "Certainly, there could be no more compelling story than the one Captain Joan Darrah has requested to bring before them — a Navy veteran deeply impacted by the attacks of September 11, nearly two decades of service to our country, and in a committed, long term and loving relationship. It's incomprehensible that anyone would wish to deny this family the same support and benefits that all other military families receive."
A spokesman for McDonnell did not respond to a request for comment this afternoon. [UPDATE: McDonnell's spokesman did respond.]
On Tuesday, Log Cabin Republicans announced that they would be participating in the party's platform-drafting process.
Retired Capt. Darrah's Letter
Chris Geidner is the legal editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. In 2014, Geidner won the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association award for journalist of the year.
Contact Chris Geidner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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