Hagel Says Pentagon to Move Quickly on Gay-Marriage Benefits

The Pentagon will provide benefits to the same-sex spouses of military personnel after the Supreme Court today struck down a law that had barred the federal government from doing so, Defense SecretaryChuck Hagel said.

“The Department of Defense intends to make the same benefits available to all military spouses -- regardless of sexual orientation -- as soon as possible,” Hagel said today in an e-mailed statement. “That is now the law, and it is the right thing to do.”

The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, today overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as a heterosexual union, saying it violates the rights of married gay couples by denying them government benefits.

Among the benefits currently available to opposite-sex spouses that will be extended are housing, medical and dental provisions as well as burial privileges at Arlington National Cemetery, according to a separate statement by the Defense Department.

Within 12 weeks the Defense Department will begin to update and process identification cards for same-sex military spouses, the Pentagon said.

“We are carefully reviewing command sponsorship for overseas tours, and all applicable Status of Forces agreements,” the department also said, hinting at unresolved issues such as whether gay married couples can live together in overseas bases where that would conflict with cultural values of a host nation.

The changes signal an end to the last remaining distinctions dividing straight and gay service members. In 2011, the Obama administration ended the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that barred gays from serving openly in the armed forces.

To contact the reporter on this story: Gopal Ratnam in Washington at gratnam1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Liebert at lliebert@bloomberg.net

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