DOJ will not enforce law denying veterans benefits to same-sex spouses

[JURIST] 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.

 

About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

© Copyright JURIST Legal News and Research Services, Inc., 2013.