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Gay Army Veteran Sues Federal Government for Denying Military Benefits to Her Wife

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A gay U.S. Army veteran in Pasadena has filed a suit against the federal government for denying military benefits to her wife.Tracey Cooper-Harris was an Iraq War veteran who served in the Army for 12 years until she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Not long after leaving the army, she got married to Maggie Cooper-Harris during that brief window in 2008 that gay marriage was legal in California. But in her suit Cooper-Harris says that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is still denying benefits to same-sex couples that it offers to heterosexual couples in violation of her constitutional rights, according to City News Service.

The Pentagon has said that a federal law from 1996 recognizing marriage as a heterosexual institution means the military can't offer benefits to gay couples even if their marriages are legal in certain states, according to the Washington Post. The Post goes on to explain which benefits the Cooper-Harris couple was denied because they are gay:

If the couple were straight they would receive about $125 more a month in disability payments as a result of Tracey Cooper-Harris’ illness, which has no cure. In addition, Maggie Cooper-Harris would be eligible for approximately $1,200 a month in benefits as a surviving spouse after her wife’s death. The pair would also be eligible to be buried together in a veterans’ cemetery.

The couple appeared at a press conference in Washington today explaining why they're filing the suit. Tracey said, “We’re only asking for the same benefits as other married couples. We simply want the same peace of mind that these benefits bring to the families of other disabled veterans."