Just a little more than a month after the repeal of the military's controversial Don't Ask Don't Tell policy went into effect, a group of married same-sex couples are joining together to file suit against the government to demand the same military benefits afforded to their heterosexual counterparts. The plaintiffs total eight couples, each legally married under the laws of their state. Lawyers for the plaintiffs believe the suit has the potential to go all the way to the Supreme Court, which could lead to ramifications beyond the military context.
• Same-sex military couples seek spousal benefits from the government
• Defense of Marriage Act, other laws keep same-sex couples from receiving benefits
• Couples say denying them benefits creates threat to national security
Barriers to Equality
Currently, same-sex military couples are denied spousal benefits based on several areas of law. The federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. Already, President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have determined that DOMA is unconstitutional and will not defend objections to the law in court.
But DOMA does not present the only barrier to same-sex spousal rights for military couples. Titles 10, 32 and 38 of the U.S. Code specifically define a spouse as someone of the opposite sex.
"Even if DOMA were to be declared unconstitutional tomorrow, these other statutes come into play to deny spousal benefits in the military context," says John Goodman, who is a lawyer at the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and is one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs in the case.
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