Army Captain fights for equal rights for gay couples

9:26 PM, Jan 22, 2012   |    comments
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"I would hide pictures in my house of vacations and stuff when people would come over because I could've gotten kicked out," said Hill, who recently married his partner Joshua Snyder. "So I think it's always been an issue with me and I always felt that it's a hard thing to deal with, fighting for everybody's rights except for my own."

In October, Capt. Hill, who is from Columbus, Ohio, got to fight for his rights. He asked a question during a presidential debate, asking the candidates about their position on the Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal.

"When the boos happened, I just thought 'did I do something wrong?'" Hill said. "I really thought this was a legitimate question and I thought it respectfully deserved to be answered. We're going to be soldiers first just like we've always done. The only thing that we want is equal treatment and not to be kicked out."

Now Hill is a part of a federal lawsuit, filed in October of 2001 by Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN). The suit is against the U.S Attorney general Eric Holder, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki.

SLDN wants current and former service members who are gay to have the same rights as the straight members of the military.
According to the SLDN website, "the case challenges the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), as well as the provisions in Title 10, Title 32, and Title 38 of the U.S Code, which preclude the military from providing same-sex married couples with the same benefits and family support as their straight, married peers."

"There is a lot of monetary benefit, things that you can name off - the separation, military separation, family separation and stuff like that we aren't entitled to," Hill said.

"We're legally married, we're husband and husband. Why aren't we able to get the same things as other married couples?" Hill asked. "When I get deployed, Josh has to do the same thing that other deployed spouse has to do, he has to take care of my house, he has to take care of the dogs. He has to take care of your family. He has to do all this stuff while you're gone, so someone has to have common sense and say it's the same, no different. Whether you're male or female, it's the same kind of stress, anxiety that you have."

9NEWS contacted all three government agencies involved for comment Sunday.

The Department of Defense said Sunday that it is standard practice not to comment on pending litigation. They released this statement:

"Service members continue to have some benefits for which they may designate beneficiaries, regardless of sexual orientation. The ability to designate any beneficiary existed before repeal, but some members may have been reticent to designate their same sex partners. Now that repeal has occurred, the services are re-emphasizing these benefits to ensure everyone is aware.

A list of the member-designated benefits can be found here:

Eligibility for a number of other benefits is restricted by applicable statutes, including the Defense of Marriage Act.

In connection with "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal, the Defense Department is engaged in a careful and deliberate review of the possibility of extending eligibility for benefits, when legally permitted, to other individuals including same-sex partners."

 The Department of Veterans Affairs gave us the following statement: "VA administers benefits in accordance with current federal law. Questions regarding current federal litigation should be referred to the Department of Justice."

The Department of Justice has declined to comment.

(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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