UPDATE (2:42 PM): The Department of Defense has addressed this morning’s Supreme Court ruling. A press release by Secretary Hagel says, ‘The Department of Defense welcomes the Supreme Court’s decision today on the Defense of Marriage Act.’ The release further continues, ‘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.’
To read the rest of the release, visit https://www.defense.gov/releases/release.aspx?releaseid=26119
June 26, 2013: Just after 10AM EST, the Supreme Court ruled to overturn Section Three of the Defense of Marriage Act, colloquially known as DOMA. In an announcement on their Twitter, SCOTUSblog, the Supreme Court announced the repeal quoting ‘5-4 Per Kennedy Equal Protection, not states rights.’
The repeal of DOMA removes the restriction from the federal government, including the military, to extend the same benefits offered to heterosexual couples to same-sex couples.
DOMA has been a highly controversial law-particularly since Congress repealed the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ policy in September of 2011.
Signed into law in 1996 by President Clinton, DOMA prevented the federal government from formally recognizing any marriage between gay and lesbian couples, specifically in regard to federal marriage benefits, even if a state government legally recognizes their marriage.
Following the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,’ the Pentagon did establish a framework to expand some benefits to same-sex partners. These benefits are to include military identification cards, access to military commissaries, child-care and legal assistance, on-base gymnasiums and movie theaters, and various family support programs. These benefits are scheduled to take effect no later than October 1, 2013.
These proposals, however, stopped short of giving same-sex partners equal access to all benefits.
This Supreme Court’s decision today means that the federal government may grant same-sex military families the same marriage benefits that were previously denied them. These benefits include increased housing allowances, military health insurance, relocation assistance, and surviving spousal benefits.
Critics of DOMA have argued that denying military members the same benefits as their peers is unconstitutional, while advocates of the law were concerned that overturning DOMA might have the potential to violate the First Amendment. “Redefining marriage poses a grave threat to free speech, freedom of conscience and the free exercise of religion that the First Amendment guarantees and protects,” said chaplain and retired Colonel Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty.
The repeal of Section Three of DOMA now frees the military to make their own choice.