Saturday, February 18, 2012

DOJ Won't Defend Laws Blocking Married Gays and Lesbian Benefits!

Here is some pretty exciting news for our married gay and lesbian service members and veterans. According to TPM, the Justice Department has decided that banning the spouses of gay and lesbian service members from military and veterans benefits is a violation of the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and that they are no longer going to defend that statute in court!:
The legislative record of these provisions contains no rationale for providing veterans’ benefits to opposite-sex couples of veterans but not to legally married same-sex spouses of veterans,” (Attorney General Eric) Holder wrote. “Neither the Department of Defense nor the Department of Veterans Affairs identified any justifications for that distinction that would warrant treating these provisions differently from Section 3 of DOMA.”

Holder said DOJ would no longer defend the provisions in Title 38 which prevent same-sex couples who are legally married from obtaining benefits. He said that Congress would be provided a “full and fair opportunity” to defend the statues in the McLaughlin v. Panetta case if they wished to do so.

As Holder writes, the benefits in question “include medical and dental benefits, basic housing allowances, travel and transportation allowances, family separation benefits, military identification cards, visitation rights in military hospitals, survivor benefits, and the right to be buried together in military cemeteries.”
This is great news, though of course there will be backlash. Then again, what is the rationale for treating one group of legally married families differently than another group of legally married service members? Presumably, this decision will not affect gay and lesbian couples who are domestic partners or civilly unionized.

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