Following the 5-4 Supreme Court decision Friday to legalize same-sex marriage across the nation, gay military couples are celebrating full access to federal benefits provided to veterans.
The majority of the groundwork was already laid down by a previous Supreme Court ruling which allowed gay couples in the military to receive benefits from the Department of Defense. But the Department of Veterans Affairs has steadfastly stuck to Title 38 section 103(c) of the Defense of Marriage Act, and as such, withheld several benefits from gay military couples in states that did not recognize same-sax marriage.
Friday’s ruling means states must also recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, Military Times reports.
“From burial rights to veteran home loans, today’s historic Supreme Court decision bringing marriage equality to every state in our great nation means that LGBT military families will finally have access to the full federal veterans benefits they’ve earned,” said American Military Partner Association (AMPA) President Ashley Broadway-Mack in a statement. “Nationwide marriage equality is not just a huge victory for LGBT people, but for America.”
Previously, gay military couples in states without same-sex marriage were denied access to the VA home loan benefit.
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins disagreed with the decision, arguing that “Marriage is rooted not only in human history, but also in the biological and social reality that children are created by, and do best when raised by, a mother and a father.”
That argument has not stopped the gradual shift in policies under the Obama administration favoring the LGBT community. For AMPA, the fight for equality is just beginning. The next phase entails pressuring the Pentagon to allow transgendered servicemembers to serve openly. Advocacy groups have lauded President Barack Obama for ending the “Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell” policy and championing LGBT rights since 2009, but still think that the real test of his progressive credentials is whether he issues an executive order to prevent the military from discriminating against the transgendered.
Ash Carter and other officials at the Pentagon have avoided answering the question of open service directly, instead preferring to say the only criterion for admission to the military should be merit, which vaguely hints at support for reform. In February, the Pentagon began a review of its medical policies. The process lasts anywhere between a year and 18 months.
On the DOD side, the recent ruling changes nothing.
“Really not a change for the department at this point. We already extend these benefits,” Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, told Military Times.
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