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Floor Statements

Titus Remarks in Support of Landmark LGBT Equality Amendment

Transcript of remarks, as prepared for delivery, from today’s House Veterans Affairs Committee Markup

September 10, 2014

Today during the House Committee on Veterans Affairs’ markup, Congresswoman Dina Titus of Nevada’s First District spoke in support of an amendment based on her bipartisan bill H.R. 2529, the Veteran Spouses Equal Treatment Act.  The language was voted down 13-12, with one Republican voting in favor. Below is a copy of her remarks, as prepared for delivery.  

“The amendment filed is based on H.R. 2529, the Veteran Spouses Equal Treatment Act, legislation I introduced over a year ago to address the injustice facing thousands of veteran families across the country currently being denied federal benefits based on their state of residence. 

“In the Supreme Court decision in Windsor v. USA, the highest court in the land ruled that legally-married same sex couples could not be denied federal benefits. 

“Nearly a year after that ruling, the Veterans Administration, through consultation with the U.S. Department of Justice, announced that veterans living in states where their marriage is not recognized would be denied access to the full range of federal benefits they have earned and deserve.

“This inequality for those who wore the uniform of the United States Armed Services and their families is unacceptable, and we, as the committee charged with overseeing the laws to serve their needs, have a duty to act. 

“In March of this year, the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs held a legislative hearing on my legislation. 

“Not a single witness testified in opposition of this measure.

“I repeat, not a single witness came forward to oppose this change. 

“The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America testified that, “IAVA supports equitable treatment of all veterans and their families and supports the changes this legislation seeks to make to Title 38.”

“The Veterans of Foreign Wars, VetsFirst, and AMVETS echoed this sentiment in their endorsement of the bill. 

“Even the VA has endorsed changing this policy. 

“The amendment simply ensures that legally-married veterans can apply for the benefits they have earned by removing language currently found in Title 38 that unintentionally bars that access for legally-married, same-sex couples based on laws of the state in which they reside.

“The current language has resulted in legally-married couples being discriminated against by the country they fought to protect. They don’t wear the uniform of a state, they wear the uniform of the federal government. If they live in California, they can get benefits. But if they move to Texas, then they lose those benefits. They live in New York, they get those benefits. But if they move to Florida, they lose those benefits. 

“As I have said many times, my legislation, and this amendment, does not change the laws of any state, and enactment of this language will have no impact on state laws barring marriage equality.

“This amendment is not about supporting same-sex marriage and it’s not about forcing states to change their policies, it’s about giving all of our veterans what they deserve.  

“Our veterans did not fight for a state - they fought for the United States. 

“This is simply an issue of fairness to the brave men and women, and their families who serve this nation. 

“I ask my colleagues to think about the veterans in your state. If you live in a state that does not recognize their marriage, you have a chance today, right now, to provide them the benefits they earned while serving our nation in uniform. Our committee has worked tirelessly in a bipartisan way throughout this Congress to ensure that ALL veterans have access to the benefits they have earned. Right now, you have the chance to continue our bipartisan efforts. 

“I ask you to look yourself in the mirror and say, 'is this fair to my veterans?'

“Better yet, look into the eye of a veteran and ask, ‘is this fair?’ We have praised the heroism, the courage, the valor of our veterans throughout the last two years. I ask you to have one ounce of the courage they have and vote today to give all of our veterans’ equal rights.”

“The Department of Defense recognizes all lawfully married, same-sex couples. When you are in the military and are legally married, regardless of where you are stationed, you and your family are entitled to benefits. So how can it make sense that the Department of Defense, recognizes your status and gives you benefits, but the minute you quit being a soldier and become a veteran, those benefits are cut off? How could that possibly make any sense?”