DOMA’s Effect On Same-Sex Couples In The Military

The DOMA ruling handed down by the United States Supreme Court yesterday has generated much discussion over what it means and what the next steps will be. Early analysis has indicated that much of what was overturned yesterday deals specifically with federal law, specifically tax law. However, there was little or no discussion as to what this ruling meant for married same-sex couples serving in the Armed Forces. Since the military is regulated by federal law, will it now mean that married same-sex couples will now enjoy the same benefits as their heterosexual colleagues? The Department of Defense released a statement yesterday which contained the following:

The Department of Defense welcomes the Supreme Court’s decision today on the Defense of Marriage Act. The department will immediately begin the process of implementing the Supreme Court’s decision in consultation with the Department of Justice and other executive branch agencies. The Department of Defense intends to make the same benefits available to all military spouses — regardless of sexual orientation — as soon as possible. That is now the law and it is the right thing to do. Every person who serves our nation in uniform stepped forward with courage and commitment. All that matters is their patriotism, their willingness to serve their country, and their qualifications to do so. Today’s ruling helps ensure that all men and women who serve this country can be treated fairly and equally, with the full dignity and respect they so richly deserve.

This brief statement seems to answer questions in regard to how the DoD intends on proceeding with providing benefits for married same sex- couples. However, individual states will still have jurisdiction over who can and cannot get married. This proposes an interesting question on how the DoD intends to proceed with providing service members equal benefits in states where same-sex marriage is still not recognized. It is important to note that nothing that occurred yesterday compels states, where same-sex marriage is not recognized, to recognize a same-sex marriage from a state that does. In other words what will the DoD ‘s policy be for a couple that was married at FT. Drum New York, but has since been assigned to duty at FT. Hood Texas, where their marriage will not be recognized ?

Yesterday was a day to celebrate for the LGTBQ community along with their advocates and supporters. However, there is still much work to be done and relentless advocacy must resume until we have answered all the questions regarding all marriages,in every state.

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