The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] announced [press release] Wednesday that it will no longer enforce a federal law that denies same-sex spouses veterans benefits. In a letter [text, PDF], Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] informed Congress that the DOJ will not enforce the provision of Title 38 defining a spouse as a person of the opposite sex, because it is identical to Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act [text, PDF] that was struck down by the Supreme Court [JURIST report] in June. Holder applied the Supreme Court's reasoning, writing:
Like Section 3, the Title 38 provisions have the effect of placing lawfully married same-sex couples in a "second-tier marriage," which "departs from [a] history and tradition of reliance on state law to define marriage," for "no legitimate purpose."Holder said that due to recent developments, including a federal district court finding the Title 38 provision unconstitutional [JURIST report], further enforcement of the law would be unwarranted and "would likely have a tangible adverse effect on the families of veterans, and, in some circumstances, active-duty service members and reservists."
In August the US Department of Defense (DOD) [official website] announced that it would extend benefits to same-sex couples [JURIST report]. 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.