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Military benefits for same-sex couples take center stage

This year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on multiple family law cases that could have an effect on thousands of people throughout the country. Among those decisions, the court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibited access to many federal benefits and tax breaks for same-sex partners. Now, many government organizations are determining how the ruling impacts their operations.

Although the National Guard is a state-to-state institution, a substantial amount of federal funds are disbursed to each contingent. Because of this, some are calling on military officials to push state National Guards into providing benefits and recognition for members in same-sex marriages.

Even though the Department of Defense ordered military benefits to be given to all legally married couples, some states’ National Guard units have resisted this order. All of these states (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Oklahoma) do not recognize same-sex unions, which is why they aren’t following the federal directive. As a result, a group of legislators are encouraging the Pentagon to pressure the states into accepting the policy.

Florida has not put forth a position on this issue at this time. Currently, state law doesn't permit same-sex marriage.

Military pension benefits can become a major portion of a service member's assets, which is why they are important for spouses. In fact, these assets could become involved in property division during divorce. As such, the ability for same-sex military spouses to be recognized has a wide range of consequences.

One important thing to note is that federal policy only applies to same-sex couples who have been legally married. Although couples do not necessarily have to be married in their home state for recognition, couples must wed in one of the 13 states that allow all couples to marry.

Source: The Washington Post, "Lawmakers urge Pentagon to press National Guard on benefits for gay couples," Josh Hicks, Oct. 3, 2013

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