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The Marine Corps began extending spousal benefits to same-sex couples Tuesday, in compliance with recent Defense Department guidance.
“The military services will construe the words ‘spouse’ and ‘marriage’ to include same-sex spouses and marriages,” according to Marine administrative message 432/13, signed Aug. 30.
“The [Defense] 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,” the MARADMIN says, citing a memo from Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.
As part of those efforts, same-sex spouses will be issued military identification cards as the Marine Corps and the other services make policy updates and technical upgrades to accommodate the change. Those cards are used by spouses to access an array of benefits ranging from commissary shopping to medical care.
The policy revision will require changes to systems like the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System known as DEERS, which has not allowed issuance of ID cards to spouses of the same sex.
The Defense Department-wide change follows a June 26 Supreme Court decision, United States v. Windsor, in which the court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional. The 1996 law prevented federal recognition of gay marriage. Federal agencies, including the military, are now required to recognize same-sex marriages for the purposes of federal benefits.
The recent policy change also cancels the extension of benefits to same-sex domestic partners. Benefits are now available to same-sex couples whose marriages are valid in the state in which they were married.