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Military same-gender spouses eligible for benefits today

WASHINGTON – The same-gender spouses of military service members become eligible today to receive a range of federal benefits, thanks to a Department of Defense policy change that was announced last month implementing the U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Starting today, spousal and family benefits will be available to all legally-married military spouses.

“Today the U.S. military is one step closer to righting the wrong of inequality in our armed forces,” Human Rights Campaign (HRC) president Chad Griffin said. “The sacrifices our nation’s gay and lesbian service members and their families make every day should be valued and recognized, and this country owes these heroes every possible measure of support.”

Among the benefits available to same-gender spouses are military I.D. cards, healthcare coverage, housing allowances and survivor benefits. Spouses can claim the entitlements retroactively, going back to the day of the Supreme Court’s DOMA ruling – June 26, 2013.

Last month the Pentagon announced another new policy, allowing gay and lesbian service members to take up to 10 days of leave in order to travel to a state where same-gender couples can legally marry. Prior to the Supreme Court ruling, HRC urged former Secretary Leon Panetta and the Pentagon to extend every possible benefit not specifically barred by DOMA to gay and lesbian service members, and HRC continues to push for full equality in the armed forces.

Recently other federal agencies have issued similar rulings or guidance regarding the invalidation of Section 3 of DOMA, including Department of the Treasury, Office of Personnel Management, Department of Health and Human Services, and Department of Homeland Security. Other agencies are expected to announce decisions on how benefits will flow to same-sex couples.

Stephen Peters, president of the American Military Partner Association, welcomed the good news.

“After years of isolation and exclusion, September 3rd marks a day of recognition and equality for those who have served in silence for so long," Peters saod. "No longer will our same-gender military spouses and their families be excluded from support and benefits that are vital to serving our nation and key to helping the service member focus on the mission."

Texas military forces refuse to process benefits for same-gender military spouses

Peters reports today that the Texas military forces, including the Texas Army National Guard, Texas Air National Guard and Texas State Guard, refused today to follow the new policy.

“It’s truly outrageous that the state of Texas has decided to play politics with our military families," Peters said. "Governor Rick Perry should be ashamed. Our military families are already dealing with enough problems and the last thing they need is more discrimination from the state of Texas."

Read a copy of the memo from Major General John Nichols at the left.