Lesbian Widow to Receive Death Benefits After Wife Dies While Serving in U.S. Military
- May 23, 2014
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Tracy Dice Johnson, a lesbian widow of an Afghanistan war soldier who was killed on duty, announced this week that the Department of Veterans Affairs has completed a review of her case and has determined that she is entitled to death benefits of her same-sex spouse. Tracy Dice Johnson is a member of the National Guard stationed in North Carolina and she has also served her country in Iraq. She married Sgt. Donna Johnson, who was killed in October 2012 when a suicide bomber attacked a checkpoint in Afghanistan. Tracy Johnson has been an advocate for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which had defined marriage as being between a man and a woman in the eyes of the federal government. Under DOMA, Tracy Johnson and other gay and lesbian war widows and widowers were not permitted to receive federal benefits from the government in the event that their spouse was killed on duty. In fact, when her wife was killed, Tracy was not even notified by the military, even though she was listed as Donna Johnson’s “next of kin,” because the military did not recognize her marriage as a valid marriage. As such, Donna’s mother was first notified about her daughter’s passing. In June of 2013, the United States Supreme Court struck down DOMA in United States v. Windsor, 570 U.S. 12 (2013). Since DOMA was overturned, the federal government and the military will now recognize same-sex marriages as being equal to those of heterosexual marriages and therefore gay and lesbian widows and widowers will not receive death benefits and all other benefits that were previously only available to heterosexual married couples serving in the military. Tracy Dice Johnson’s benefits will be retroactive to the date that her wife was killed on duty – even though her untimely death occurred before the Supreme Court struck down DOMA. This is a significant event in the progression of same-sex marriages across the country and reflects a giant victory for those who support marriage equality. If you are a gay or lesbian couple who plan on seeking a legal marriage or filing for a same-sex divorce or would like more information regarding same-sex divorce it is critical that you seek out the advice of an experienced attorney before proceeding. For more information about same-sex marriage, same-sex divorce, same-sex relationship dissolution, postnuptial agreements, prenuptial agreements or other family law matters in New Jersey visit DarlingFirm.comThis blog is for informational purposes and it is in no way intended to replace the advice of an attorney.