Pentagon To Make Changes In Wake Of Gay Marriage Ruling
The Pentagon says it's committed to providing equal benefits to the military spouses of gays and lesbians.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says the Pentagon will begin the process to extend health care, housing and other federal benefits to the same-sex spouses of military members as soon as possible.
The announcement from Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel came after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a provision of a federal law that denied federal benefits to gay married couples.
The decision opens the door for married gay couples to get federal benefits.
Hagel issued a statement Wednesday afternoon that the Department of Defense welcomes the Supreme Court's decision on the Defense of Marriage Act.
"The department will immediately begin the process of implementing the Supreme Court's decision in consultation with the Department of Justice and other executive branch agencies. 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," said Hagel.
The provision of the Defense of Marriage Act kept legally-married same-sex couples from receiving tax, health and pension benefits that go to married couples of the opposite sex.
Defense officials estimate there are 18,000 same-sex couples in the active duty, National Guard and Reserves.
It's unclear how many of those are married.
The court ruling also could allow same-sex spouses to be buried at Arlington Cemetery.
The Pentagon has said that by October 1, it would extend a variety of benefits to same-sex partners, including access to on-base commissaries and some health and welfare programs.
The repeal of the ban on openly gay military service took effect in September 2011.
"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," said Hagel.