Carmen Cardona’s Veteran Benefit Case Could Change The Game Against DOMA

After Naval veteran Carmen Cardona honorable completed 18 years of service, The Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) declared her 80 percent disabled because of her dual-handed carpal tunnel syndrome. In 2010 she wed her partner of nine years in Connecticut and then applied to the DVA for a supplemental increase in her monthly disability check—something usually provided to disabled veterans with dependent spouses, children, or parents.

But (surprise) they rejected her application because the so-called Defense of Marriage Act forbids the U.S. Government from recognizing Cardona and her same-sex spouse as legally married.

So now she’s suing. Her lawsuit says that DOMA violates her Fifth Amendment right to due process and the case could prove shake up the judicial battle over DOMA’s constitutionality because this time, the military’s involved.

Cardona has filed a claim at the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, a special federal court in Washington that specifically handles veteran benefit disputes—a court no one has ever used to challenge DOMA.

If the Department of Veterans Affairs’ lawyers decide not to uphold DOMA, John Boehner’s gang of puritanical prigs over at the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group could take up the case. But if Cardona loses at the veteran court, she could take her case to the Federal Court of Appeals and then all the way to the Supremes, finally forcing the highest court to take up DOMA and help mandate fair treatment of LGB military service members.

The Obama Administration’s refusal to uphold DOMA, New York’s recent passage of marriage equality and the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” have all contributed to a “cultural legal shift” that one veterans law professor says will inevitably result in more and more cases challenging DOMA’s strictures.

As the pressure builds in multiple states and fronts, the DOMA dam has to give sometime.