Department of Defense officials estimate there are some 18,000 same-sex couples in the active-duty military, National Guard and the Reserves, though it’s unclear how many of those are married.
But, those who are married could get health care, housing and other benefits by the end of this month under a proposal being considered by the Pentagon; earlier plans to provide benefits to unmarried same-sex couples may be reversed.
A Defense Department memo from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says the department might instead provide up to 10 days of leave to military personnel in same-sex relationships so they can travel to states where they can marry legally.
If implemented, this new plan would reverse an earlier plan to have the same-sex partners of military members sign a declaration form in order to receive limited benefits, such as access to military stores and some health and welfare programs. Hagel says the recent Supreme Court decision ending DOMA to legally married same-sex couples eliminates the need for such a plan:
"As the Supreme Court's ruling has made it possible for same-sex couples to marry and be afforded all benefits available to any military spouse and family, I have determined, consistent with the unanimous advice of the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that the spousal and family benefits far outweigh the benefits that could be extended under a declaration system.”
In the memo, Hagel says the department intends to treat all married military personnel the same and "make the same benefits available to all military spouses, regardless of sexual orientation." But, recognizing that same-sex couples are only allowed to marry in a limited number of states, Hagel said the provision allowing service members to travel to states where the unions are legal is a way to help overcome those challenges.
I can just hear those anti-marriage equality folks now, spouting off about these ‘special rights’ that same-sex military couples have, getting 10 travel days to go get married where its legal.
So, I have a solution for them: work to have marriage equality become the law of the land in every single state and there’ll be no need for the additional travel days.
See how that works out?