Same-sex spouses of US veterans to receive benefits


The US military's ban on openly gay service members was repealed on Sept. 20, 2011.


Instagram photo by @theurv

The United States Justice Department announced on Wednesday that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will be required to extend veteran's benefits to same-sex spouses, thereby ceasing to enforce a federal law that previously barred such couples from the system. 

In a letter announcing the decision, Attorney General Eric Holder cited the June Supreme Court decision that invalidated part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, Bloomberg reported. 

Continued enforcement of the federal statute that excluded same-sex couples from military benefits "would likely have a tangible adverse effect on the families of veterans and, in some circumstances, active-duty service members and reservists, with respect to survival, health-care, home loan and other benefits," Holder wrote in the letter, which was sent to prominent lawmakers. 

More from GlobalPost: Pentagon grants same-sex military couples marriage leave 

A section of the VA's authorization law known as Title 38 limits marriage to a relationship between a man and a woman, barring assistance such as health and death benefits to same-sex military spouses. 

"It is the [attorney general]'s long established view that Title 38 is unconstitutional," a Department of Justice official told Fox News. "We're not going to defend it in court. We're not going to enforce it."

"The Obama administration is doing right by our veterans and faithfully executing the Supreme Court's opinion," said Michael Cole-Schwartz, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, according to Reuters. 

Positive changes for gay couples in the US military continue to be announced. In August, the Pentagon said that all couples, regardless of sexual orientation, would henceforth be granted marriage leave.