Jonathan Franqui & Navy Senior Chief Dwayne Beebe
Jonathan Franqui & Navy Senior Chief Dwayne D. Beebe (Gulf Breeze, FL)
In July 2012, after nearly a year of dating each other, Navy Senior Chief Dwayne D. Beebe and Jonathan Franqui packed into their car and decided to drive across the country from their home in Gulf Breeze, FL to San Diego, CA, where Dwayne had previously been stationed at Naval Medical Center San Diego working as a Disability and Transition Counselor for wounded warriors and disabled service members. Dwayne wanted to share with Jonathan a window into his life in San Diego by introducing him to friends and former co-workers – and, by happy coincidence, the week of their trip wound up being the same weekend as the San Diego Pride Parade.
On the road trip to the West Coast, Dwayne heard from a fellow service member that the Department of Defense had given permission for all branches of the military to march in the Pride Parade wearing their military uniforms, a huge step forward that had momentous symbolic significance for Dwayne, who had been living under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ for 18 of his 19 years serving in the U.S. military.
Once they arrived in San Diego, Dwayne decided to make the parade even more memorable than it already would have been. He marched in his military whites, and toward the end of the parade, after marching past 200 thousand well-wishers, he approached Jonathan, dropped to one knee, pulled out a box, and opened it.
He had to ask “Will you marry me?” three times before Jonathan processed what was going on. Of course, he said yes.
The men decided to host their wedding ceremony in Pensacola, FL in March 2013 so they could commit their lives to each other in front of their family members and friends. Their marriage will not be legal in their home state, but this winter, Jonathan and Dwayne traveled to Maryland to get an official marriage license on the first day of the freedom to marry in the state on January 1, 2013.
“We want to have something to present during our wedding ceremony in Florida,” Jonathan explained. “I want that power of a certified letter between me and my husband. I want them to fully see and feel that impact – to know that this is not just a relationship. It’s a marriage.”
Although Dwayne and Jonathan are legally married in Maryland, their marriage is not respected in Florida. Their marriage is also not respected by the federal government because of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which denies lawfully married same-sex couples access to over 1,100 federal protections and responsibilities that married different-sex couples receive. The anti-gay law has serious ramifications for Dwayne and Jonathan.
Since getting married, Dwayne has attempted to file Jonathan in the DEERS Military Dependents Program, listing Jonathan as a spouse, but the application was denied due to DOMA and outdated Department of Defense policies, forcing Dwayne to list Jonathan as a friend. Because of this, Jonathan is not allowed to take part in programs designed to make military families stronger - like the Military Spousal Jobs Program, which helps military spouses find employment after transfers.
“Since DOMA is in place, I’m not viewed as Dwayne’s spouse,” Jonathan said. “I don’t get military insurance benefits, meaning I have to pay over $200 extra a month for insurance. DOMA takes a lot of our pockets and out of our relationship. It means that I can’t support Dwayne as a spouse as I should be able to.”
Until February 2012, military families imposed additional hardships due to Department of Defense policies that had not been updated following the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”: Same-sex spouses were denied military ID cards, support from family support initiatives, and joint duty assignments.
That lack of protection dramatically complicated the couple’s life by interfering with their care for Dwayne’s mother, who lives with the men in Florida. Four months ago, she was diagnosed with cancer, and because she was dependent on Dwayne's health insurance and does not qualify for off-base health coverage, she was treated at Walter Reed National Medical Center in Bethesda, MD. She had to have surgery to excise the cancer and receive radiation treatments. In January, Dwayne was transferred to a new duty station in Tennessee, which made it difficult for him to care for his mother in Maryland. Jonathan attempted to fill in for his husband by supporting her in the hospital, but because of DOMA, he is not permitted to do so. "If I was considered a spouse," Jonathan explained, "I would have left my job, moved up there, and started caring for her. I could have gone to base with her, taken her to appointments, gone to college online, and gotten a part-time job. But because I'm not considered Dwayne's spouse, I can't do any of that. I can't be there to support my mother-in-law."
On February 11, outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced that the Pentagon would begin extending some additional protections – like military ID cards – to same-sex spouses of active service members. The memorandum extends coverage to almost everything the Pentagon can do given the constraints of DOMA, which restricts the military from addressing some of those larger concerns, like shared health coverage. It’s a step forward – but it’s not enough.
Dwayne and Jonathan’s marriage deserves legal, official respect - respect that cannot happen until all couples in Florida - and Tennessee, and any other state where Dwayne and Jonathan may move - have the freedom to marry, and until the Defense of Marriage Act is overturned once and for all.
Marriage matters to Jonathan and Dwayne. It communicates their commitment to each other and their plan to grow old together by each other's side. "Marriage is the ultimate commitment you can make to the person that you love," Jonathan said. "It's important to have that union recognized in your community and in your home and in your family. It's important to us because we say 'I love you' verbally, and we do the same things people do in a marriage, and we want respect for that. We want our community to understand how strong our commitment is to one another - how strong our commitment is to the person we love."