Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell has denied a request by retired Navy Captain Joan Darrah to speak to the national Republican Party platform committee in support of the freedom to marry.
On Thursday, August 9, Darrah wrote a letter to McDonnell, chair of the national Republican Party platform committee, asking to address the committee in support of the freedom to marry and the recognition of all marriages when it meets in Tampa, Florida. CAPT Joan Darrah, USN (Ret) requested to share the couple’s personal story and illustrate to the committee how its support for marriage equality is in keeping with the ideology of the GOP.
“If given the opportunity, we will testify in support of the inclusion in the Republican platform of both the repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and the right of same-gender couples to marry and for those marriages to be recognized by our federal government. Quite simply, these objectives correspond with the ideals of the Republican Party - opposition to government intrusion in people’s lives and a modern military that supports all service members and their families,” Darrah said.
Darrah served nearly three decades in the U.S. Navy, including under the now-repealed discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) law. On September 11, 2001, at 8:30 a.m., she attended a meeting in the Pentagon, leaving the meeting promptly at 9:30 a.m. At 9:37 a.m., American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the Pentagon and destroyed the exact space she had been less than eight minutes earlier, killing seven of her 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 Fortunately, because DADT has been repealed, gay and lesbian service members can now serve openly without the fear of discharge,” Darrah wrote in the letter.
Darrah and her wife, Lynne Kennedy, are plaintiffs in McLaughlin v. Panetta, a case in which SLDN represents eight married gay and lesbian service member and veteran couples seeking the same recognition, supports, and benefits as their straight, married colleagues. Even now with DADT off the books, DOMA and other federal laws prevent the military from treating all service members, veterans, and their families the same. This includes denial of health care, death benefits, and burial in national cemeteries.
“Gay and lesbian service members and their families are making the same sacrifices daily as their heterosexual counterparts. 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?” asked Darrah in her letter.
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