#DONEwithDOMA: Meet Dan and Lt. Gary Ross
By Dan Ross
I am married to Lieutenant Gary Ross. He graduated from high school a year early and he enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1995 at the age of 17. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) was already in effect and the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) went into effect the following year. After a few years, Gary decided to become an officer and he received an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy. He began school in 1998 and I met him on a dating website in 2000. We have been in a committed relationship for over 13 years. Gary graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2002 and his class was the first class to graduate into war after the terrorist attacks on 9/11. He has been assigned to several ships and he is currently the Combat Systems Officer on U.S.S. ANCHORAGE (LPD 23) in San Diego.
DADT forced us to hide our relationship from everyone except for a handful of trusted friends and family members. The law required Gary to keep me a secret and it forced him to lie to his shipmates on a daily basis. DADT was repealed in 2011 and we were finally able to be open and honest about our relationship for the first time. We waited more than 11 years for that moment and we were legally married in Vermont at the exact moment the repeal went into effect. DADT was a tremendous burden and it was exhilarating to finally be able to express our love openly. However, DOMA continues to cast a dark shadow on our marriage and it prevents us from receiving equal recognition, benefits, and family support for equal sacrifice and service in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Gary does the same job as service members who are married to someone of the opposite sex, but he does not receive up to $6,000 per year in compensation because we are the same sex. Gary does not receive the “with dependents” Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) rate as a married service member. Instead, he receives the “without dependents” BAH rate which is $246 less per month in San Diego. When Gary’s ship is away from port for more than 30 days, he does not receive Family Separation Allowance (FSA) as a married service member. Instead, he receives nothing which is $250 less per month. Gary does not receive the “with dependents” Permanent Change of Station (PCS) weight allowance as a married service member. Instead, he receives the “without dependents” PCS weight allowance which is 1,500 pounds less.
Gary does the same job as service members who are married to someone of the opposite sex, but I do not receive receive vital benefits because we are the same sex. I have traveled to Mexico on numerous occasions for affordable healthcare because the cost of private insurance is prohibitive. Two days after our wedding, I was returning from the doctor in Mexico when gunfire broke out at the San Ysidro border crossing. A customs agent and several civilians were hurt. Gary and I feared for my life that day. A few years earlier, I went to the emergency room after cutting my left index finger on a table saw and the medical bills totaled about $2,000. On another occasion, I went to the dentist because I was experiencing severe tooth pain and it required a costly root canal and medication. Unfortunately, the tooth had to be extracted six months later and it took several years before Gary and I could save enough money to have my tooth replaced.
Last year, I received medical, dental, and vision insurance benefits through my employer, but I still paid about $4,500 on out-of-pocket healthcare expenses including premiums and deductibles. This year, my insurance benefits were converted to COBRA after a reduction in hours. As a result, I may return to Mexico for affordable healthcare because COBRA premiums are $548 per month.
My husband, Lieutenant Gary Ross, has served in the military for his entire adult life and he took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Ironically, DOMA denies us hundreds of federal benefits and many of the same rights he supports and defends for others. DOMA makes second-class citizens out of first-class service members. DOMA is a domestic enemy of the Constitution of the United States. Gary and I are #DONEwithDOMA and we are fighting for equality.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dan Ross is the husband of Navy Lieutenant Gary Ross. The two were married at the stroke of midnight on September 20, 2011, the day of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal. They are plaintiffs in OutServe-SLDN’s federal court challenge to the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), McLaughlin v. Panetta. They live in San Diego, CA.