Take Two for September 6, 2013

LGBT service members still fighting for benefits

Active Duty Military Members March In San Diego's Gay Pride Parade

Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

Military personel march down University Avenue during the San Diego gay pride parade July 16, 2011 in San Diego, California. About 200 active-duty troops and veterans from every branch of the military participated for the first time in the march.

When the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act last June, that was supposed to clear the way for same-sex married couples to obtain federal benefits. But LGBT service members are still fighting that battle.

The Texas National Guard and Louisiana National Guard are refusing to accept any application from same-sex couples trying to claim benefits, despite a Pentagon directive to do so.

Meanwhile the Mississippi National Guard says it's limiting the requests it receives to only service members who apply for benefits from federally-owned offices, not state-owned ones. They say it's because same-sex marriage isn't legal in those states.

This is just the latest barrier for LGBT service members and veterans seeking benefits: in addition, a little-known law called Title 38 only extended VA benefits to spouses in opposite-sex marriages.

When the Supreme Court ruled against DOMA last June, other regulations on the books like Title 38 were left unaffected. It needed a separate challenge, and just last week a federal judge ruled in favor of a lesbian couple in Pasadena seeking benefits.

A few days ago, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the Justice Department will no longer defend Title 38, clearing the way for other LGBT veterans to pass on spousal benefits.

To tell us more about the struggles that gay and lesbian services have had in trying to obtain benefits is Jeremy Johnson, board co-chair for SPARTA, an organization for the LGBT military community.


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