Gay Veteran Seeks Rights After Husband’s Death

     PHOENIX (CN) – A gay military veteran from Arizona asked a federal judge to issue an accurate death certificate immediately, naming him the survivor of his husband, who died of cancer last week.
     Los Angeles-based Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund filed Fred McQuire’s declaration in support of a previous request for recognition of his marriage to George Martinez.
     Martinez, 62, died Aug. 28 of pancreatic cancer. The couple met in Arizona in 1969 when McQuire, now 69, was serving in the Air Force. They married in California in July this year after learning of Martinez’s diagnosis.
     McQuire says that when he tried to complete paperwork for Martinez’s burial benefits, handle the arrangements for his cremation, and apply for his death certificate, he was told that he would not be recognized as his husband, and that Martinez’s sister would have to complete the papers.
     The proprietor at the funeral home “told me that she would accept information about me if I wanted to provide it, but it would not matter in the process because I am not an ‘eligible’ person to request George’s death certificate or to be identified on it because our marriage is not recognized under Arizona law and I am not an ‘immediate family member’ by blood,” McQuire says in his supplemental declaration requesting a temporary restraining order and injunction.
     If the state recognizes McQuire’s marriage to Martinez, he will be able to apply for survivor’s benefits from the Social Security Administration and the Veterans Affairs Department. McQuire has chronic pulmonary disease and Parkinson’s disease and cannot afford to pay for his mortgage without Martinez’s income.
     “This is what we mean when we say every moment counts for same-sex couples whose relationships are disrespected by the State of Arizona,” Lambda Legal Law and Policy Project Director Jennifer C. Pizer said. “Fred and George were devoted to each other for 45 years and just days after George’s death Fred now has to fight to have his name listed on his husband’s death certificate – it’s heartbreaking and humiliating.”
     Lambda Legal filed a motion for Martinez and McQuire in August, seeking recognitio n of their marriage. Arizona banned same-sex marriage in 1996, and a voter-approved initiative in 2008 amended Arizona’s constitution to include the ban.
     “George was my best friend and the center of my life. His death has left me overwhelmed with sadness, emptiness, and depression. I am truly at a loss,” McQuire says in the new declaration.

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