August 14, 2013: The Pentagon announced today that same sex spouses will begin to receive access to federal benefits on or around September 3, to include military identification cards. Until now, same sex spouses have been excluded from access to programs such as Tricare, educational benefits, access to the commissary, and other quality of life benefits like on base housing with their service member.
Since the June decision by the Supreme Court of the Defense of Marriage Act, same sex spouses have sat in limbo as to when the door would be open for them to see the equal benefits of their heterosexual peers. With section 3 being ruled unconstitutional, Federal departments are no longer prevented from recognizing same sex marriages thus clearing the way for the Pentagon’s implementation of full support. At a time when our community is struggling with sequestration cuts to the things we value so much, an entire population of our military families have had no access at all.
“The extension of equal benefits for all legally married spouses, regardless of sexual orientation, is a huge step forward for our families who for far too long have been excluded and cut off from support,” said Stephen Peters, president of AMPA. “While this is important in making sure our same-sex military spouses have equal access, we still have a long battle ahead of us in ensuring all of our LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) military families have equal protection in all 50 states.” The American Military Partner Association has served as a support system to spouses and partners around the globe as they eagerly awaited the moment when their members would be treated as equal citizens. Financial hardship, limited access to quality healthcare, and geographic separation are just some of the situations LGBT military families have faced.
In a memorandum from Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, he states “The Department of Defense remains committed to ensuring that all men and women who serve our country and their families are treated fairly and equally. Expeditious implementation of the decisions announced in this memorandum will help the Department remain true to that commitment.”
Additionally, for those stationed in the 37 states without marriage equality, they will be granted 10 days of leave to travel to one of the 13 states who do allow for same sex military marriage. “Marriage leave” will be charged against the service member’s leave account and will only be permissible once during the service member’s career.
After twelve years of a continuous cycle of combat, all military families can celebrate that those who serve in our Nation’s most honorable duty will now be afforded the opportunity to see their families taken care of. As our community continues to navigate an uncertain future of budget cuts to vital programs and services, it is important to stand together as one team, one fight.
For more information about the American Military Partner Association and LGBT military families, please visit on the web at www.MilitaryPartners.org.