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DOD grants same-gender spouse benefits

WASHINGTON -- The Department of Defense (DOD) today announced its plan to extend benefits to same-sex spouses of uniformed service members and Department of Defense civilian employees.

After a review of the department's benefit policies following the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional, and in consultation with the Department of Justice and other executive branch agencies, the Defense Department will make spousal and family benefits available no later than Sept. 3, 2013, regardless of sexual orientation, as long as service member-sponsors provide a valid marriage certificate.

The DOD said it 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.

Entitlements such as TRICARE enrollment, basic allowance for housing (BAH) and family separation allowance are retroactive to the date of the Supreme Court's decision. Any claims to entitlements before that date will not be granted. For those members married after June 26, 2013, entitlements begin at the date of marriage.

DOD officials said they recognize that same-gender military couples who are not stationed in a jurisdiction that permits same-gender marriage would have to travel to another jurisdiction to marry. Thus, the department will implement policies to allow military personnel in such a relationship non-chargeable leave for the purpose of travelling to a jurisdiction where such a marriage may occur. This will provide accelerated access to the full range of benefits offered to married military couples throughout the department, and help level the playing field between opposite-sex and same-sex couples seeking to be married.

For civilian benefits administered government-wide to federal employees, the DOD will follow the Office of Personnel Management and the Department of Labor's guidance to ensure that the same benefits currently available to heterosexual spouses are also available to legally married same-sex spouses.
Read the implementation memo from Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel online as well as further guidance on extending benefits to same-sex spouses of military members from Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Jessica Wright.

American Military Partner Association reacts

Stephen Peters, president of the American Military Partner Association (AMPA), a resource and support network for LGBT military families, said AMPA is pleased with the news.

“The extension of equal benefits for all legally married spouses, regardless of sexual orientation, is a huge step forward for our families who for far too long have been excluded and cut off from support,” Peters said.

"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.”

For more information about AMPA, please click HERE.

Freedom to Marry reacts

Marc Solomon, national campaign director of Freedom to Marry, saluted today's news.

“We applaud the Defense Department for acting swiftly and doing all within its power to ensure that married gay and lesbian service members are treated equally. The fact that same-sex couples who are serving at military bases throughout the country must in many cases travel hundreds if not thousands of miles to get married and be treated as equals by the Pentagon highlights the need to move quickly to national resolution, with the freedom to marry guaranteed to loving and committed couples nationwide,” Solomon said.

Freedom to Marry’s new plan, “Roadmap to Victory – Finishing the Job,” released last month, details the national plan for winning marriage nationwide in years, not decades. Following the winning strategy that has helped create the current momentum for marriage, the new plan calls for setting the stage for a successful return to the Supreme Court by ensuring that by 2016, a majority of Americans live in a marriage state, polls show public support for the freedom to marry above 60%, and federal marriage discrimination has been eliminated through passage of the Respect for Marriage Act.