Same-sex spouses of military members will have access to the same benefits as other spouses no later than Sept. 3, the Defense Department announced Wednesday.
Benefits such as health insurance through TRICARE, the basic housing allowance and the family separation allowance will be retroactive to June 26, the date the Supreme Court struck down the section of the Defense of Marriage Act that had prevented the federal government from recognizing legal same-sex marriages.
Defense officials earlier this summer vetted the department’s plan for complying with the high court’s decision with the Justice Department and other agencies.
“It is now the department’s policy to treat all married military personnel equally,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel wrote in an Aug. 13 memorandum to military departments. “The department will work to make the same benefits available to all military spouses, regardless of whether they are in same-sex or opposite-sex marriages. The department will continue to recognize all marriages that are valid in the place of celebration.”
The new policy also allows service members in same-sex relationships to take leave to get married, if they are stationed more than 100 miles from a state where same-sex marriage is legal. Those inside the continental United States will be allowed seven days of leave; those outside will get up to 10 days.
Defense Department civilian employees in same-sex marriages will also be entitled to the same benefits as heterosexual married couples. For civilians, the department will follow Office of Personnel Management and Labor Department guidance. Days after the Supreme Court ruling, OPM said same-sex spouses would qualify for health benefits, life insurance, and dental and vision insurance immediately.