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Bicameral legislation would extend benefits to same-sex military couples

(Washington, DC) – On the one-year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision striking down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and U.S. Representative Dina Titus (NV-1) are calling on congress to pass legislation to extend benefits to all same-sex military families. The call follows an announcement last week by the Department of Justice that some federal agencies, including the Department of Veterans Affairs, are prohibited from offering benefits to same sex-couples because of discriminatory language that remains in the U.S. code. Shaheen’s Charlie Morgan Military Spouses Equal Treatment Act and Titus’s Veteran Spouses Equal Treatment Act would allow the Department to comply with the intent of the Supreme Court’s ruling and allow same sex military spouses and their families to receive care.

“The repeal of DOMA by the Supreme Court was an important step towards ending discrimination against LGBT spouses and families by the federal government but one year later there is still work to be done,” Shaheen said. “Everyone that serves in the military ought to receive the benefits they’ve earned. Right now, we have veterans returning home to find out their families are not eligible for benefits because of where they live. It’s wrong and it needs to be addressed.”

“One year after the Supreme Court decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), gay and lesbian veterans continue to face discrimination by the government they fought to defend. Every military family deserves our respect and admiration for the sacrifices they make on behalf of this great nation, regardless of whom they love or where they live,” Titus said. “That’s why now, more than ever, Congress must act to pass the Charlie Morgan Act and the Veteran Spouses Equal Treatment Act to ensure all veterans have access to the federal benefits they have earned and deserve.”

According to the Justice Department, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is unable to grant comprehensive benefits to same-sex couples living in states that do not recognize such marriages even if they are legally married in another state. This has created a situation in which veterans who have volunteered to serve in our Armed Forces are discriminated against and can be denied benefits based simply on where they live. The legislation offered by Shaheen and Titus would require the VA to recognize any marriage that has been recognized by a state.