Now that gays and lesbians can serve openly in the United States military, the next step in the legal battle is to secure the same partner benefits for married same-sex couples that heterosexual couples enjoy.

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network today filed a federal lawsuit against Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki on behalf of eight former and current active duty soldiers over the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law which prevents the government from recognizing same-sex marriages, even those performed legally in jurisdictions that allow them.

“The plaintiffs, each legally married, want the armed services to recognize their families and seek the same family support and benefits for their same-sex spouses that the services and Department of Veterans Affairs provide to opposite-sex spouses,” SLDN said today via a media release.

SLDN sues government over Defense of Marriage Act

SLDN’s Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis added:

“This case is about one thing, plain and simple. It’s about justice for gay and lesbian service members and their families in our armed forces rendering the same military service, making the same sacrifices, and taking the same risks to keep our nation secure at home and abroad,” said Sarvis. “These couples are in long term, committed, and legally recognized marriages, and the military should not be forced to turn its back on them because the federal government refuses to recognize their families.”

DOMA prevents the military from recognizing same-sex marriages. Benefits like housing, health care, and surviving spousal benefits are unavailable to gay and lesbian couples.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

DOMA is facing several legal challenges currently making their way through the federal court system. Some members of Congress, however, are working toward a legislative solution. “The Respect for Marriage Act” is proposed federal legislation that would repeal DOMA and allow the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages. The bill has the support of President Barack Obama but has failed to gain traction in Congress.

For more information on SLDN’s lawsuit, please visit