For One Military Family, DOMA Decision Will Hit Close To Home

Same-sex couples in the military will be watching closely now that the U.S. Supreme Court is considering the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. Anxiously awaiting a decision are Army lieutenant colonel Heather Mack and her wife, Ashley Broadway, who've been together for 15 years and have two children. They say repealing DOMA would help many enlisted same-sex military couples, who don't receive funds to move non-military spouses from one base to the next. But most of all, Broadway and Mack say repealing DOMA would give them the recognition they crave: to have their marriage officially recognized in every state in the country. Jessia Jones of WUNC talked with the couple.

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Army Lieutenant Colonel Heather Mack and her wife, Ashley Broadway, have been together for 15 years. As a same-sex couple in the military, they would like their marriage to be fully recognized.

Now that the U.S. Supreme Court is considering the Defense of Marriage Act, which bans federal recognition of same-sex marriage, Mack and Broadway believe their dream may be possible. North Carolina Public Radio's Jessica Jones has this profile.

JESSICA JONES, BYLINE: Lieutenant Heather Mack and Ashley Broadway were married in Washington, D.C., in 2012 after "don't ask, don't tell" was repealed. They live in a gated community with a golf course not far from Fort Bragg with their two young children. On this weekend morning, Broadway and her nearly 3-year-old son, Carson, are prying open a bottle of baby lotion.

ASHLEY BROADWAY: Here you go.

CARSON: Can squeeze a hand?

BROADWAY: Can you squeeze it in your hand? Let's wipe her off before we do some lotion.

JONES: Today, Carson is helping his mom change his bright-eyed 8-week-old sister Carly, who's being very fussy.

BROADWAY: Oh. Can you give your sister a kiss? Aw. OK. Oh, OK.

JONES: But Mack and Broadway say the stress of having a newborn is nothing compared to what the last year has been like for them.

LIEUTENANT COLONEL HEATHER MACK: You ever been to the circus?

BROADWAY: Yeah. There's no two days alike. I mean, you know, at times, it's been draining. It's been, you know, stressful. We've actually received hate mail, phone calls, emails.

JONES: Earlier this year, Broadway received national attention after she tried to join the Fort Bragg officers' spouses club but was rejected. She fought the decision and was later invited to apply. Mack, who's been in the Army for 17 years, says she was investigated several times in retaliation from soldiers she reprimanded.

MACK: Every single time that I was investigated, it was because of a soldier who was doing something wrong, and I was usually putting them out. Like I had one soldier who stole from the command, I had another soldier who was writing bad checks.

(LAUGHTER)

JONES: But the couple says there were other personal indignities and fear living under "don't ask, don't-tell." Lieutenant Mack had a difficult birth with their son who was transferred to a neonatal unit. They had documents giving Broadway power of attorney as Mack's legal partner, but Broadway says she was reluctant to use them for fear Mack might lose her job.

BROADWAY: Once I got over there, they didn't want to let me see him. They wouldn't give me any, you know, information. This is in the middle of the night, 2 o'clock in the morning, and I didn't want to have to pull the lawyer card, but I showed the head nurse my paperwork.

JONES: Mack and Broadway have spent thousands of dollars on the legal papers to protect themselves. They've also paid out of pocket for Broadway's health insurance and moving expenses from base to base. They estimate it's cost them $500,000 over the years. Mack and Broadway say if the Supreme Court repeals DOMA, their finances would improve by having the same benefits other married couples enjoy.

MACK: The court decision's giving me anxiety. I want to know what the decision is. I want to know quickly, I mean, because it has such an impact on our life.

BROADWAY: If today, you know, I found out that there's no more DOMA and I'm equal, you know what, I would be angry about the 500,000.

JONES: Broadway says what they care most about is fairness.

BROADWAY: If you were to tell me, I respect your family, I think you guys should have a civil union, I think you should have the legal rights, but I just am not there on the whole marriage thing, I respect that. However, she puts on the uniform just like her peers and her soldiers, and she should be treated just like anyone else.

JONES: And Broadway says as the wife of a soldier, so should she. For NPR News, I'm Jessica Jones in Sanford, North Carolina.

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