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Alaska military couple flies south to marry legally

By MJ Thim 4:25 PM August 17, 2013

DOD decides to extend benefits to all married couples

ANCHORAGE – A historic decision by the military gives equal rights to all married couples, gay and straight. The landmark move changes the way the military treats gay spouses.

There’s one catch.

The marriage needs to be legal in the eyes of the law. In Alaska, it’s not.

So Jen Theulen, with Alaska’s Air National Guard, and Nicole Carrier, a former Marine, are leaving Alaska and headed to Seattle to get married. Washington State is one of 13 states where it’s legal for a gay couple to get married.

It’s not the first time they exchanged vows. They got married last year in Girdwood. It was a family affair, but because it wasn’t legal, it didn’t give them the equal rights they so desperately wanted.

“If something happened to her and she went to the hospital, there was no way I could get on base,” Carrier said.

Soon, Carrier will be able to now that the military is extending full benefits to all legally married military couples. It’s still a shock for Carrier.

“I think I have to see the marriage certificate,” she said. “Once we get that certificate with both of our names on it, it will become real.”

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. This week, the military followed by extending benefits. Now, Theulen and Carrier will get benefits for things like health care and housing. They are quick to point out it goes deeper for them.

“Our motivation was to be like everyone else,” Theulen said.

“To be wife and wife,” Carrier said, “to be able to go out on a date night and it’s a date night as wife and wife. Celebrate an anniversary and it’s not just a will-you-be-my-girlfriend kind of anniversary. It’s ‘I made you my wife this day’ anniversary.”

Last year, Theulen and Carrier’s fellow service members nominated Carrier for spouse of the year in spite of the law.

“She actually got nominated for it and won,” Theulen said. “Then [the organizers] said you guys aren’t legally married or recognized as a married couple so maybe try it another time. We were on the website one day and we were off it the next.”

But after Sunday, they’ll be like any other married couple in the eyes of the law.

“We have our hard times too. We aren’t like perfect although we’d like people to believe we are,” Theulen said. “We’re just like any other couple. The only difference is that we are two women. I guess there is a biological difference but as far as socially and stuff … we are just like any other couple.”

The military says gay couples stationed where it’s illegal to marry, like Alaska, will be given ten days of leave to travel to one of the 13 states and get married.

Benefits are expected to kick in next month.

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