Department of Defense will extend protections to same-sex spouses

Today, the U.S. Department of Defense announced that the same-sex spouses of gay and lesbian servicemembers will begin receiving full benefits and protections by September 3, 2013 - the same protections that different-sex spouses of servicemembers currently receive. The announcement marks the implementation of the repeal of the June 2013 Supreme Court ruling striking down the central part of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which for 16 years deprived legally married same-sex couples of more than 1,100 protections and responsibilities of marriage. 

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced the news in a memo:

It is now the department's policy to treat all married military personnel equally. The department will construe the words 'spouse' and 'marriage' to include same-sex spouses and marriages, and the Department will work to make the same benefits available to all military spouses, regardless of whether they're in a same-sex or opposite-sex marriage.

The new policy will allow unmarried gay and lesbian servicemembers living in states without the freedom to marry up to ten days of leave so that they can travel to marriage states or the District of Columbia and legally wed their partner. 

Freedom to Marry's National Campaign Director Marc Solomon praised the Defense Department for the decision while acknowledging the need for the freedom to marry across the country, saying:

We applaud the Defense Department for acting swiftly and doing all within its power to ensure that married gay and lesbian service members are treated equally. The fact that same-sex couples who are serving at military bases throughout the country must in many cases travel hundreds if not thousands of miles to get married and be treated as equals by the Pentagon highlights the need to move quickly to national resolution, with the freedom to marry guaranteed to loving and committed couples nationwide.

The Pentagon's finalized plans are the latest in news about the implementation of the DOMA Supreme Court decision. For all of the official statements released so far, click HERE. And for more information on what the end of DOMA means for same-sex couples, check out this 'AFTER DOMA' guide

In the past year, Freedom to Marry has led Freedom to Serve, Freedom to Marry alongside Outserve-SLDN in order to amplify the stories of U.S. servicemembers and their same-sex partners and families hurt by DOMA. Learn more about Freedom to Serve, Freedom to Marry HERE