Same-sex couples in the U.S. military will get as much as 10 days of leave to marry in a state where it’s legal, the Defense Department said.
The Pentagon announced today the special leave of seven days for service members stationed in the U.S. and 10 days for those abroad if they are more than 100 miles (161 kilometers) from one of the 13 states and the District of Columbia that permit same-sex marriages.
“This will provide accelerated access to the full range of benefits offered to married military couples throughout the department and help level the playing field between opposite-sex and same-sex couples seeking to be married,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a memo to secretaries of the military services.
The action follows the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, which spelled out the federal definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman. While granting marriage leave, the Pentagon canceled benefits for unmarried same-sex couples and their children that were to go into effect this month.
The Supreme Court ruling means that accommodation is no longer necessary, Hagel said. Among those benefits were joint-duty assignments, child care, and emergency leave.
“The department will construe the words ‘spouse’ and ‘marriage’ to include same-sex spouses and marriages, and the department will work to make the same benefits available to all military spouses, regardless of whether they are in same-sex or opposite-sex marriages,” Hagel said in the memo.
The benefits will be retroactive to the date of the court decision on June 26.
Hagel’s action was praised as “a huge step forward” by the American Military Partner Association, which calls itself an advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender military families.
“We still have a long battle ahead of us in making sure all of our LGBT military families have equal protection in all 50 states,” Stephen Peters, president of the group, said in an e-mailed statement.
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