In a letter to U.S. Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) dated Sept. 4, Attorney General Eric Holder informed the Republican House Speaker that President Obama's administration will extend veterans benefits for married same-sex couples.
This comes in the wake of the Supreme Court’s June 26 ruling that struck down a key portion of the Defense of Marriage Act, and the Internal Revenue Service's Aug. 29 decision to allow same-sex married couples to file federal taxes together and share Medicare benefits.
Based on the court ruling, the administration will no longer enforce policies that restrict veteran benefits to legally married opposite-sex couples.
Married same-sex couples will be eligible for veterans benefits
“In light of these developments … continued enforcements of the provisions pending further judicial review is unwarranted. The decision of the Supreme Court … reinforces the Executive’s conclusion that … the provisions are unconstitutional,” Holder wrote.
“Continued enforcement would likely have a tangible adverse effect on the families of veterans, and in some circumstances, active-duty service members and reservists, with respect to survival, health care, home loan and other benefits,” he stated.
Multiple LGBT groups nationwide weighed in on the announcement.
“The continued unwinding of discrimination against legally married couples in the aftermath of the [DOMA] decision is a welcome development,” said James Esseks, director of the ACLU’s LGBT Project. “The federal government is right to ensure that legally married couples where a spouse has served valiantly in the military, are treated equally.”
President Obama, Attorney General Holder and other LGBT supportive members in the president’s administration have seized on the DOMA overturn to provide previously unobtainable benefits for married same-sex couples throughout the country.
OutServe-SLDN, an association of actively serving LGBT military personnel, praised the action in a press statement.
“OutServe-SLDN is pleased to see these steps by the military services,” said April Heinze, OutServe-SLDN board chair. “Service members and their families have long been denied fair and equal treatment. [This] begins our steps forward on benefits that will … resolve this inequality.”
OutServe-SLDN board member and Hospital Corpsman Second Class Jeffry Priela-Tam, currently at Camp Lejuene, NC, said this day has been a long time coming for him and his husband, Chris.
“It comes as a great relief because now I don’t have to pay out of pocket to live off base while forced to maintain a barracks room. It’s a huge step towards equality. I can’t wait for the day when all states that do not currently recognize our marriage will come to their senses and fall on the right side of humanity,” Priela-Tam said.