Photographer: Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg via Getty Images
By Richard Wolf, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON - Same-sex spouses of military veterans are the latest
beneficiaries of the Supreme Court's decision striking down the Defense
of Marriage Act.
President Obama directed his administration on
Wednesday to allow veterans' spouses to collect federal benefits,
regardless of their sexual orientation. Until now, both the Veterans
Affairs and the Defense departments restricted those benefits to
The announcement follows a decision by
congressional backers of the Defense of Marriage Act to drop their
opposition to same-sex benefits, as well as a federal district court's
ruling that the old policy was unconstitutional.
"The continued unwinding of discrimination against legally married couples in the aftermath of the Windsor
decision is a welcome development," said James Esseks, director of the
American Civil Liberties Union's Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender
Project. "The federal government is right to ensure that legally married
couples, where a spouse has served valiantly in the military, are
The administration announced last week that
legally married same-sex couples would be treated the same as
opposite-sex couples for federal tax purposes. That means they can file
joint tax returns and take advantage of all federal tax benefits enjoyed
by opposite-sex couples.
Similar changes have been made by other
federal agencies to comply with the high court's ruling, which struck
down the ban on federal benefits to same-sex couples. Those changes make
immigration, Medicare and family and medical leave benefits available
to same-sex couples; final decisions on others, including how Social
Security benefits will be handled, are pending.