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New Bill Extends Benefits to All Military Spouses

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A Democratic congressman has introduced legislation to extend same-sex benefits to the spouses of LGBT veterans and servicemembers.

Representative Adam Smith of Washington is the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee. His bill–the Military Spouses Equal Treament Act–would make governmental agencies honor ANY marriage recognized by a state, territory or the District of Columbia. It would essentially change the definition of “spouse” in the U.S. Code to include gay marriages for purposes of military and veterans benefits.

Zeke Stokes of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network tells OutQ News that the military advocacy group has worked with Congressman Smith on the measure “for quite some time now.” SLDN is also fighting to secure spousal benefits for married LGBT troops in a federal lawsuit against the Defense of Marriage Act. DOMA prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriages.

Stokes says the group is hoping to mimic its ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal strategy, which involved battles both “in the courts and on the Hill.”

STOKES: If you want to imagine two trains on the track (one is the judicial train, that’s the case; the other is this legislation moving through the Congress)–we’re not sure which one will get to the station first, but we do know that military leaders are increasingly uncomfortable with administering two tiers of benefits for servicemembers.

Stokes says the bill addresses some of the “big ticket items” for married ‘out’ servicemembers and veterans, like offering their partners insurance coverage, increasing their overall housing allowance and extending survivor benefits.

Stokes adds that SLDN will now work on gaining co-sponsors for both the House legislation and an expected companion bill in the Senate.


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