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Topics In the News
 
U.S. Military Extends Benefits to Same-Sex Married Couples
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 08/14/13
Last updated on: 08/14/13
 
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On August 14, 2013, the Pentagon announced that, in response to the Supreme Court decision that overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, it was moving expeditiously to extend federal benefits to same-sex spouses of military personnel and civilian defense employees. The benefits will be available to all legally married spouses regardless of sexual orientation beginning no later than September 3.

"The Department of Defense remains committed to ensuring that all men and women who serve in the U.S. military, and their families, are treated fairly and equally as the law directs," the announcement said.

In addition, the Pentagon said that it would grant leave for couples who are not stationed near jurisdictions that recognize same-sex marriage so that they can travel to those jurisdictions to be married.

Same-sex spouses will be eligible for military health benefits and housing allowances on a retroactive basis if they were legally married before the June 26 Supreme Court decision. Entitlements will begin at the date of marriage for those who wed after the ruling.

As Josh Hicks notes in the Washington Post, before the Supreme Court decision in Windsor v. U.S., the Defense Department had planned to allow same-sex spouses and domestic partners to sign a relationship declaration in order to receive limited benefits.

The elimination of the obstacles posed by DOMA, however, allowed the Department to treat same-sex and opposite-sex spouses equally and eliminated the need for a relationship declaration. The addition of special leave to travel to jurisdictions in which same-sex marriages are performed is an attempt to compensate for the penalties imposed on same-sex couples by having only 13 states and the District of Columbia in which they can wed.

As Stephen Peters, president of the American Military Partner Association obsvered, "While this is a huge step forward in making sure our same-sex military spouses have equal access, we still have a long battle ahead of us in making sure all of our LGBT military families have equal protection in all 50 states."

The video below, from the Wall Street Journal, made soon after the Windsor decision declaring DOMA unconstitutional, gives the background to the August 14, 2013 announcement.

 
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