Pentagon Finalizing Plan to Provide Benefits to Same-Sex Military Spouses

Army Capt. Michael Potoczniak, left, and Todd Saunders are married at City Hall in San Francisco. Army Capt. Michael Potoczniak, left, and Todd Saunders are married at City Hall in San Francisco. Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

The Defense Department is weighing its options for how to best comply with the Supreme Court’s reversal of the Defense of Marriage Act, according to an Associated Press report.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has issued a memorandum to senior department officials, outlining a plan that could provide same-sex spouses of military members with benefits such as health care and housing subsidies by the end of August. The plan would also give military members in same-sex relationships up to 10 days of leave to travel to a state in which they can legally marry, AP reported.

The proposal is currently under review by the Justice Department.

“Consistent with the president's direction to the attorney general, we are working with all agencies to help them implement the Supreme Court's decision in Windsor [v. United States],” Justice spokeswoman Allison Price told Government Executive.

Prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling, the Pentagon had announced plans to extend some benefits to same-sex partners of service members. Those benefits did not include health care and housing allowances, however.

"In the event the Defense of Marriage Act is no longer applicable to the Department of Defense," then-Secretary Leon Panetta wrote in a February memo, "it will be the policy of the department to construe the words 'spouse' and 'marriage' without regard to sexual orientation, and married couples, irrespective of sexual orientation, and their dependents, will be granted full military benefits."

Just days after the June Supreme Court ruling, the Office of Personnel Management issued its preliminary rules for civilian federal employees in legally recognized same-sex marriages, declaring those spouses immediately eligible for all federal benefits.

In his new memo, Hagel also promised to share the same benefits with all military spouses, AP reported, regardless of sexual orientation.  

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