In the wake of the Supreme Court DOMA ruling, the Obama administration has been methodically working its way through the mountain of regulations around marriage. But one roadblock has been providing veterans’ benefits to same-sex couples. Unlike regulations that can be readily changed, veterans’ benefits are governed by a law that explicitly defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Now the Administration has come up with a solution: it will no longer enforce that section of the law, clearing the way for same-sex married veterans to get the same benefits that opposite-sex married veterans do.
“Continued enforcement would likely have a tangible adverse effect on the families of veterans and, in some circumstances, active-duty service members and reservists, with respect to survival, health-care, home loan and other benefits,” Attorney General Eric Holder wrote in a letter to Congress.
A bill to change the law has been passed by a Senate committee, but even if it cleared the full Senate it has slim odds of passage in the House.
Meantime, Texas reminds us yet again that is an independent republic that doesn’t have to follow federal law if it doesn’t want to. The state National Guard is refusing to provide spouse benefits to same-sex couples despite a directive from the Pentagon to do so because it conflicts with the Texas Constitution.
“Due to this potential conflict, we are unable to enroll same-sex families … at our state-supported facilities until we receive legal clarification,” said Maj. Gen. John Nichols, the commanding general of Texas Military Forces (the most frightening three words you’ll read today).
Nichols said that couples seeking benefits to go to a federal office, such as a military base, and get them there. Texas appears to be the only state taking such a hard line, based on a survey of states conducted by the Associated Press.