Today, House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith reintroduced H.R. 683, the Military Spouses Equal Treatment Act of 2013, legislation that is designed to ensure equal benefits for all military spouses and equal standing for all military families.
"Despite the Department of Defense making strides towards equality in the military, there is more that must be done to ensure that the rights of all servicemembers and their spouses are protected, regardless of who they are married to," said Ranking Member Adam Smith. "This bill would make sure that servicemembers and veterans with same-sex spouses receive the same benefits as their heterosexual counterparts. All spouses of those serving in our Armed Services make tremendous sacrifices for our country, and no one should be prevented from receiving hard-earned benefits simply because they are the same sex as their partner."
Secretary Panetta's recent efforts to extend some benefits to the same-sex partners of servicemembers is a significant step forward, but the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs remain very limited in what benefits they provide to same-sex spouses. Some benefits that could not be provided through Secretary Panetta's regulatory changes include medical and dental care, dependent-rate housing allowances, survivor benefits, cost of living allowances, and protection under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.
The Military Spouses Equal Treatment Act of 2013 fixes this discriminatory practice by changing the definition of "spouse" in the relevant sections in the United States code to read: "an individual shall be considered a "spouse' if the marriage of the individual is valid in the State in which the marriage was entered into or, in the case of a marriage entered into outside any State, if the marriage is valid in the place in which the marriage was entered into and the marriage could have been entered into in a State."
This change will require the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs to recognize any marriage that has been recognized by a state or the District of Columbia and provide the same benefits to the spouses of all service members.