US: Lesbian widow announces she is granted survivor benefits

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

A lesbian widow of a US soldier killed in Afghanistan has announced that she has been granted the same survivor benefits as straight spouses.

Tracy Dice Johnson announced on Saturday that the Department of Veterans Affairs had reviewed her case and that she had been granted the benefits.

The North Carolina National Guardsman, and Iraq veteran, was married to National Guard Staff Sergeant Donna Johnson who was killed in a suicide bomber attack in Khost, back in 2012.

Johnson’s request for equal benefits had not bee rejected, but since the Supreme Court last year made it possible for same-sex couples to receive equal benefits, she had only received letters saying her request was under review.

She was honoured at the American Military Partner Association’s National Gala Dinner, at which she announced the Department had “decided to retroactively recognise” her.

The widow thanked her American Military Partner Association “family”.

Rosemary Freitas Williams, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy, said several initiatives had been started by the Pentagon to ensure that service members had full access to such benefits.

“Our military will no longer be deprived of the talents and skills of patriotic Americans just because they happen to be gay or lesbian,” said Williams.

“And now we can say of our military spouses and partners, ‘Welcome aboard.'”

The anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church in 2012 attempted to disrupt the funeral of Sergeant Johnson, but hundreds of service members showed up to block the picketers.