August 6, 2013
On Wednesday, in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court struck down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
The majority of Justices found that DOMA “violates basic due process and equal protection principles” and turns aside “the tradition of recognizing and accepting state definitions of marriage” in order to “deprive same-sex couples of the benefits and responsibilities that come with federal recognition of their marriages.”
DOMA defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman and guided most decisions about federal benefits, including military and veterans’ compensation.
After the ruling, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel issued a statement that the ruling changed the “law of the land” and that DoD “intends to make the same benefits available to all military spouses – regardless of sexual orientation – as soon as possible. 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.”
Presently, 13 states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage. The legal recognition of these marriages will allow same-sex spouses to enroll in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS). Defense officials estimate enrollment will take approximately 3 months to complete.
Exactly how DoD policy will be altered in the wake of the ruling is unclear for military same-sex couples whose marriages are not sanctioned in a given state.