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Federal judge rules same-sex spouses entitled to veterans' benefits

A judge for the US District Court for the Central District of California [official website] held [opinion, PDF] Thursday that Title 38's exclusion of same-sex spouses regarding veteran's benefits is unconstitutional. Tracey Cooper-Harris, a 12-year Army veteran, sued the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) after it denied her fully disability benefits because she is married to a woman. In light of the June 26 Supreme Court ruling striking down [JURIST report] Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act [text, PDF], the court found that the denial of benefits to same-sex spouses is not rationally related to any military purpose and enjoined the VA from relying on Title 38 [text] to exclude Cooper-Harris' marriage that was legally recognized by the state.

Earlier this month the US Department of Defense (DOD) [official website] announced that it will extend benefits to same-sex couples [press release]. Likewise, those couples stationed in a jurisdiction that will not provide a valid marriage certificate to same-sex couples will be granted leave [press release] to obtain a license and certificate. All benefits will be retroactive to the date of the ruling for current members who provide a valid certificate. Benefits are set to begin on or before September 3. The DOD has steadily increased benefits to same-sex couples since the revocation of Don't Ask Don't Tell [JURIST backgrounder] in 2011.

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