Out Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey (D) has proposed legislation to grant LGBTQ+ military veterans coverage for in-vitro fertilization (IVF), something the federal Veterans Administration (VA) only allows for heterosexual couples.
Healey first introduced the legislation – dubbed the HERO Act – in November, and according to The Boston Business Journal a hearing on the proposal is set to be held this month before the Joint Committee on Veteran and Federal Affairs.
“Our veterans have sacrificed so much for our country, and this transformative legislation marks an important step toward ensuring that Massachusetts supports them in return,” Healey said in a press release after introducing the legislation.
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Calling the bill “historic,” she added, “From day one, our administration has been committed to revitalizing veterans’ services in Massachusetts and ensuring that every one of these heroes receives the benefits, resources, and support that they deserve.”
The bill would no doubt have a massive impact, as veterans in same-sex marriages have made it clear the current policies affect them deeply. In August, Massachusetts veteran Ashley Sheffield filed a class action lawsuit against the VA arguing that the denial of fertility coverage to LGBTQ+ couples is unconstitutional.
“We are entitled to equal treatment and we should no longer be treated as second-class citizens,” Sheffield reportedly said when she filed the suit.
In addition to granting IVF coverage to same-sex couples, the HERO Act proposes a myriad of other benefits, including expanded access to mental health care treatment, an increase in the tax credits small businesses receive for hiring low-income and chronically unemployed veterans, an increase in flexibility for veteran property tax exemptions, and an expanded definition of a veteran dependent.
In November 2022, Healey became the first out lesbian governor in the country, as well as the first woman elected governor in her state. Before that, she was the country’s first out lesbian state attorney general.
As AG, she championed non-discrimination protections for trans people in Massachusetts and pushed for gender-neutral markers both federally and for the state. And as civil rights chief in the AG’s office, Healey brought the first successful challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, helping to lay the groundwork for marriage equality nationwide.
After she won the Democratic primary, she stood before a raucous crowd of supporters and told them, “I am so proud to be able to stand before you tonight as your Democratic nominee for governor of Massachusetts.” She nodded to the sound of her latest title and added, “That sounds good.”
The former professional basketball player and captain of her team at Harvard describes herself as a “baller” and was clear-eyed about the work ahead in her remarks that night: “I ask you, as a former point guard, to leave it all with me on the court.”