First District Rep. Tim Walz introduced a bill today aimed at ensuring access to military benefits for same-sex couples and their families — no matter where they live.
"When somebody puts their life on the line to protect our freedom at home, they deserve to enjoy the same freedom and earned benefits as anyone else who has done so, no matter who they love or where they reside, " Walz said in a statement.
The U.S. Supreme Court's decision this summer striking down the Defense of Marriage Act did not address a provision in federal law that defines a spouse as a person of the opposite sex when it comes to benefits given. Walz's bill would change that. It would also ensure that if a same-sex couple got married in a state where gay marriage is recognized but then moved to a state where it is not, they would still be eligible for the same military benefits. Those benefits include survivor benefits, spousal benefits and flag burial honors.
In August, the Pentagon announced a plan to extend legally married same-sex couples the same benefits given to legally married heterosexual couples. But in some states where same-sex marriage is not legally recognized, couples have had trouble accessing those benefits. In September, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin ordered the National Guard to stop processing requests for military benefits for same-sex couples. The Texas National Guard has also refused to process military housing allowances for gay couples.
The bill has three co-sponsors — Rep. Mark Tarkano, D-Calif..; Rep. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., and Rep. Ileanna Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla.