White House grants veterans’ benefits to same-sex couples
The Justice Department said on Wednesday it would no longer enforce the federal ban on veterans’ benefits for members of same-sex couples, the Huffington Post reported.
Attorney General Eric Holder explained in a letter to lawmakers that his department had opted not to enforce Title 38, as the rule is known, citing the Supreme Court’s June 2013 decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act.
Continuing to enforce the provision, Holder wrote, “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.”
The decision earned quick praise in a Wednesday afternoon statement by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
“The continued unwinding of discrimination against legally married couples in the aftermath of the Windsor decision is a welcome development,” said James Esseks, who leads the group’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Project. “The federal government is right to ensure that legally married couples, where a spouse has served valiantly in the military, are treated equally. Federal protections that come with marriage should apply to all who are married.”
Holder also cited an Aug. 30 federal court ruling in California granting a lesbian Army veteran and her spouse disability benefits.
Two days earlier, a South Carolina lesbian couple sued to challenge that state’s marriage equality ban, arguing that it affects disability benefits for one of the women, a veteran.
Read Holder’s letter, made available online by the Post on Wednesday, below.
[Image: “U.S. Air Force Uniform With Blank Dog Tags” via Shutterstock]