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US military to provide equal benefits to same-sex spouses

The US Department of Defense (DOD) [official website] announced Wednesday that it will extend benefits to same-sex couples [press release] in compliance with the June 26 Supreme Court ruling that striking down [JURIST report] the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Likewise, those couples stationed in a jurisdiction that will not provide a valid marriage certificate to same-sex couples will bgranted 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. Furthermore, "For civilian benefits administered government-wide to federal employees, the Department of Defense will follow the Office of Personnel Management and the Department of Labor's guidance to ensure that the same benefits currently available to heterosexual spouses are also available to legally married same-sex spouses." 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 (DADT) [JURIST backgrounder] in 2011. In February of this year, the Under Secretary of Defense [official website] advised [DOD memo] that same-sex couples should be considered for benefits equally with heterosexual couples effective August 31, pending the Supreme Court decision on DOMA. After a careful study with the Department of Justice, the DOD issued further internal guidance [DOD memo] for extending benefits to same-sex couples on Tuesday, in preparation for Wednesday's public announcement.

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