Same-sex Navy couple fights for equality

Posted at 12:24 AM, Mar 22, 2013
and last updated 2013-03-22 14:49:24-04

T.J. Jenkins has made the same sacrifices as any other Navy wife. But because she's gay she won't be recognized at her sailor's retirement ceremony next month.

"To be a second class citizen is just like me sitting in the back of the bus," Jenkins said.

Jenkins married SH1 Melissa Smith in Maryland two months ago.

"It felt more real and concrete because we were married," Jenkins said. All TJ wants is a letter of recognition for the way she's supported her sailor.

"It's priceless, you know. because it's coming from my wife," says Jenkins.

The Commanding Officer's signature is needed for the letter to be presented at Smith's retirement ceremony next month, and it seems the CO doesn't approve.

"It was like a slap in the face," Jenkins said. "It's gotten to the point where sometimes we'll have discussions and she just don't want to have a retirement."

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In a letter from Rear Admiral T.G. Alexander, he told Smith the federal government does not recognize same-gender domestic partners as spouses.

"It's okay for her to fight for her country, it's okay for her, you know to do all these things for her country," Jenkins said. "To make all these sacrifices, but when it comes to her personal relationships, it's a big issue."

Yet other same-sex partners of sailors have been given the same letter Jenkins and Smith are fighting for.

"To me I feel as if they're putting pressure on her until she just blatantly gives up," Jenkins said.

They have six children together. Four of them are Jenkins', two are Smith's. The sailor says she's been told only her biological children will be recognized at her retirement ceremony, and that's something her wife can't live with.

"We're going to the ceremony and they're just going to give the certificates to two of the children and not the other four?" Jenkins said. "You know how would that make them feel? Because they're all sisters and brothers."