Just three days after Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced he would extend benefits to same-sex partners of members of the military, U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) today co-sponsored legislation that would strengthen and expand the Secretary's new policies by establishing them as law.
The Military Spouses Equal Treatment Act (MSET) would allow same-sex spouses of service members and veterans to receive the same benefits as heterosexual couples.
"Supporting our servicemen and women and our veterans also means supporting their spouses and families, whose sacrifices often go unseen and unrecognized. This support should not be contingent on whether a member of our military is gay or straight," said Rep. Pocan, a member of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus. "After the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the Military Spouses Equal Treatment Act is an important step toward equality, and for ensuring we keep our promises to all of the courageous men and women who serve our country in uniform. Moving forward, I am working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle on legislation to ensure that same-sex spouses, no matter their occupation, can receive the benefits and support afforded to all other spouses."
Even with Secretary Panetta's new mandates, many same-sex spouses would be precluded from receiving benefits from the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs due to provisions within the Defense of Marriage Act. The Military Spouses Equal Treatment Act would allow the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs to recognize marriages as defined by a state. This includes marriages in the nine states and the District of Columbia which have implemented full marriage equality. Because the law would amend U.S. Code, the benefits would be protected from the changing political whims and provide a level of security to same-sex spouses.