Shortly after the Supreme Court issued its DOMA ruling, the Pentagon announced that it would determine how to implement policies to recognize same-sex military couples. Now we have a good idea of what the policies will look like. According to a document obtained by Associated Press, the military will extend full benefits to same-sex couples in housing, health care and other benefits – but only if the couples are married. To ensure that they are, the military will provide up to 10 days of leave so the couple can travel to a state where marriage equality is legal.
In other words, the Pentagon is promoting marriage equality by requiring it for benefits. Previously, in recognition that marriage equality is limited to 13 states, the Pentagon had floated the idea that couples could file a declaration of their relationship. Now the Pentagon not only will insist you have a valid marriage certificate, it will give you time off to go to a state where you can get it.
“As the Supreme Court’s ruling has made it possible for same-sex couples to marry and be afforded all benefits available to any military spouse and family, I have determined, consistent with the unanimous advice of the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that the spousal and family benefits far outweigh the benefits that could be extended under a declaration system,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel wrote in the draft document.
The document isn’t yet final, but it’s a good indication of where the Pentagon is likely to wind up. As a reminder if how fast the military has changed: two years ago Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was still in effect.