WASHINGTON (June 26, 2013)--U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel issued a statement after the ruling Wednesday in which he said the Pentagon will begin to extend health care, housing and other federal benefits to the same-sex spouses of military members as soon as possible.
“The Department of Defense intends to make the same benefits available to all military spouses -- regardless of sexual orientation -- as soon as possible. That is now the law and it is the right thing to do,” Hagel said.
“Every person who serves our nation in uniform stepped forward with courage and commitment. All that matters is their patriotism, their willingness to serve their country, and their qualifications to do so. Today's ruling helps ensure that all men and women who serve this country can be treated fairly and equally, with the full dignity and respect they so richly deserve,” he said.
Defense officials estimate there are 18,000 same-sex couples in the active duty, National Guard and Reserves, but it’s unclear how many are married.
The court ruling also could allow burial of same-sex spouses at Arlington Cemetery.
Repeal of the ban on openly gay military service took effect in September 2011.
WASHINGTON (June 26, 2013)--The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that legally married same-sex couples should get the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples and in a separate case cleared the way for same sex marriages in California.
In a 5-4 vote, the court invalidated a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act Wednesday that prevented married gay couples from receiving a range of tax, health and retirement benefits that are generally available to married people.
Justices in a second 5-4 vote held that defenders of California's gay marriage ban did not have the right to appeal lower court rulings striking down the ban.
The court's vote Wednesday leaves in place the initial trial court declaration that the ban is unconstitutional and California officials probably will rely on that ruling to allow the resumption of same-sex unions in about a month's time.
Chanting "DOMA is Dead," supporters of same-sex marriage burst into cheers Wednesday at news of the Supreme Court's decision invalidating part of the federal law.
Sarah Prager, 26, cried when she heard the news standing outside the court. Prager married her wife in Massachusetts in 2011 and now lives in Maryland.
"I'm in shock. I didn't expect DOMA to be struck down," she said through tears and shaking. Prager was referring to the Defense of Marriage Act, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996, which was aimed at preserving the legal definition of marriage as between a man and a woman.
A large crowd had thronged to the high court's plaza earlier to await not only the decision on DOMA, but also a ruling on whether a constitutional amendment in California prohibiting gay marriage could stand the test of challenge.
Most of the people in the crowd that spilled across the sidewalk in front of the court were gay marriage supporters.
One person held a rainbow flag and another wore a rainbow shawl, and a number of people carried signs with messages including "2 moms make a right" and "'I Do' Support Marriage Equality."
Others wore T-shirts including "Legalize gay" and "It's time for marriage equality."
At several points the crowd began a call and response chanting, "What do we want? Equality. When do we want it? Now."
President Barack Obama applauded the court’s ruling in the DOMA case.
“This was discrimination enshrined in law. It treated loving, committed gay and lesbian couples as a separate and lesser class of people. The Supreme Court has righted that wrong, and our country is better off for it,” he said.
“On an issue as sensitive as this, knowing that Americans hold a wide range of views based on deeply held beliefs, maintaining our nation’s commitment to religious freedom is also vital,” he said.
“How religious institutions define and consecrate marriage has always been up to those institutions. Nothing about this decision – which applies only to civil marriages – changes that,” he said