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Apr 17, 2014

Equality NC to File Amicus Brief in Marriage Equality Lawsuit Championing Military Families

Ashley Broadway-Mack and Army Lt. Col. Heather Mack, of Sanford, N.C., and their son, Carson.

RALEIGH, N.C. – Equality NC, North Carolina’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) advocacy organization will file an amicus brief with the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Bostic v. Schaefer. Bostic is a case which could decide the issue of marriage equality in several Southern states, including North Carolina.

The full brief is available now at: equalitync.org/brief.

The amicus brief, to be filed on behalf of Equality NC and South Carolina Equality, by Attorney Mark Kleinschmidt of the law firm Tin Fulton Walker & Owen, outlines for the Fourth Circuit many key legal questions and issues relating to the impact of state-level marriage bans on same-sex military couples and their children. The brief includes profiles of two North Carolina military families negatively impacted by the state’s constitutional ban on the freedom to marry as well as other state laws targeting same-sex couples and their children, including:

  • Ashley Broadway-Mack and Army Lt. Col. Heather Mack, of Sanford, N.C., a married, same-sex military couple who have been together more than 15-years, made national headlines when Ashley, voted 2013 Ft. Bragg Military Spouse of the Year, was denied admission to an on-base military spouse’s club last year. The Macks are parents to two, small children, who are legal strangers to Ashley under North Carolina’s ban on second-parent adoption. While the military has become strongly affirming of relationship recognitions for same-sex couples since the rolling back of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and the Supreme Court’s ruling on the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act,” state laws leave the couple’s young son and daughter vulnerable when their biological parent, Heather, is frequently deployed to areas of war and conflict.
  • Tracy Johnson, of Raeford, N.C., is the widowed spouse of National Guard Staff Sgt. Donna Johnson, who was killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan more than a year ago. Tracy has yet to receive survivor benefits because of where she lives - North Carolina. Even though the Supreme Court cleared the way for same-sex couples to get previously denied federal benefits, it left state marriage laws like Amendment One intact, and with it, left Tracy, who also served in Iraq for 15 months, waiting for veteran's death benefits that military spouses routinely receive when they lose a loved one to combat.

North Carolina is not only home to the third largest military population in the country, but also, based on 2010 census data, tens of thousands of same-sex couples – military and civilian – who, like the Macks and Ms. Johnson, are impacted daily by state laws that bar marriage equality.

“Our gay and lesbian service members put their lives on the line everyday for North Carolina, and it’s shameful that they and their families are treated as second-class by our present state of inequality,” said Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality NC. "As these brave men and women courageously perform their duties with dignity and honor, at Equality NC we think its our duty to stand up for the freedom to marry for those who fight for the freedom for all."

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