Defense Department announces same-sex benefits plan

Aug. 14, 2013 at 12:50 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Aug. 14 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of Defense said Wednesday it will make benefits available "no later than Sept. 3" for same-sex spouses of uniformed and civilian workers.

In a release, the Pentagon said spousal and family benefits will be available retroactive to June 26, the date of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that Section Three of the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. It said the decision was made "in consultation with the Department of Justice and other executive branch agencies."

Spouses of uniformed and civilian personnel who produce a valid marriage license will be eligible to receive entitlements including healthcare coverage under the department's TRICARE program, basic allowance for housing and family separation allowance.

The Pentagon statement acknowledged that same-sex military couples not stationed in a jurisdiction where same-sex marriage is legal "would have to travel to another jurisdiction to marry."

"That is why the department will implement policies to allow military personnel in such a relationship non-chargeable leave for the purpose of traveling to a jurisdiction where such a marriage may occur," the Pentagon said. "This will provide accelerated access to the full range of benefits offered to married military couples throughout the department, and help level the playing field between opposite-sex and same-sex couples seeking to be married."

The statement said the Department of Defense will follow Office of Personnel Management and Department of Labor "guidance" to provide spouses in legal same-sex marriages with civilian benefits currently available to federal employees in heterosexual marriages.

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