WASHINGTON – Defense Department officials will move forward in making benefits available to all military spouses, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a statement issued June 26 after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act.
The law had prevented federal agencies from offering all of the same benefits to spouses in same-sex marriages that they provide to other spouses.
Here is the secretary's statement:
"The Department of Defense welcomes the Supreme Court's decision today on the Defense of Marriage Act. The (DOD) 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."
Later, a Defense Department spokesman issued a statement detailing some of the steps the department is taking:
* The department will immediately begin to update the identification card issuance infrastructure and update the applicable implementing guidance. We estimate that this process will take about six to 12 weeks. For civilian employees, the department will look to the Office of Personnel Management for guidance. For civilian employees who are eligible for ID card-related benefits, the department intends that ID cards will be made available to same-sex spouses of civilian employees at the same time as same-sex spouses of military members.
* The Supreme Court's ruling means that the Defense Department will extend all benefits to same-sex spouses of military personnel that are currently extended to opposite-sex spouses, including medical, dental, interment at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., and with-dependent Basic Allowance for Housing. The department will implement these benefit changes as soon as possible for same-sex spouses.
* The policies governing burial at Arlington National Cemetery will apply equally to same-sex and opposite-sex spouses.
* We are carefully reviewing command sponsorship for overseas tours, and all applicable status of forces agreements.
* We will assess costs as we move forward with implementation.
(American Forces Press Service)