Obama Administration To Extend Veterans' Benefits To Married Gays

by
Reuters
The Obama administration will allow same-sex spouses of veterans to receive federal benefits currently only available to heterosexual married couples, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a letter to members of Congress on Wednesday.

Same sex couples take their vows during a group wedding at the First Baptist Church in Seattle

The Obama administration will allow same-sex spouses of veterans to receive federal benefits currently only available to heterosexual married couples, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a letter to members of Congress on Wednesday.

The decision comes just over two months after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal law that denied federal benefits to legally married gay and lesbian couples.

The announcement will make the same-sex spouses of veterans eligible for various benefits, including healthcare and survivor benefits.

Wednesday's announcement was the latest by the Obama administration on recognition of same-sex marriage following the Supreme Court decision in June to invalidate the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA. Just last week, the U.S. Treasury Department said the Internal Revenue Service would recognize legally married same-sex couples for federal tax purposes.

In Wednesday's letter to various members of Congress, including Representative John Boehner, the Republican speaker of the House, Holder notified them of the decision not to enforce the provision of federal law that limits the definition of a veteran's spouse to a member of the opposite sex. The law is separate to DOMA and therefore was not directly affected by the Supreme Court ruling.

Holder said that although the Supreme Court did not address the veterans' benefits law in the DOMA ruling, "the reasoning of the opinion strongly supports the conclusion that those provisions are unconstitutional."

A legal group that represented House Republicans that defended DOMA had already said that, as a result of the high court ruling, it would no longer defend the veterans' benefits law, which has been challenged in court by same-sex couples.

Last week, a federal judge in California said the law was unconstitutional in light of the Supreme Court ruling.

The Justice Department has said since 2012 that it would not defend the law but had not previously said it would no longer enforce the law.