When the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act earlier this year, it marked a big step forward for same-sex couples in the military. Previously, even if they were legally married, the law prevented the Pentagon from providing them with the same benefits as heterosexual couples. However, the Department of Defense recently announced it will extend benefits to gay and lesbian couples while also giving them leave to travel to states where gay marriage is legal, Military.com reports.
This new policy, known as "marriage leave," is effective immediately but can only be used once during a servicemembers career. Additionally, it won't count toward the 30 days each year already afforded to them. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said that the move was necessary because there are still 37 states that do not perform same-sex marriage, and it's important for the Pentagon to recognize every member of the Armed Forces equally.
"This will provide accelerated access to the full range of benefits offered to military married couples throughout the department, and help level the playing field between opposite sex and same-sex couples seeking to be married," he wrote in a memo to service secretaries.
Among the benefits that will open up to same-sex couples are housing allowances and health care coverage. According to the Los Angeles Times, it gives them the chance to qualify for extra compensation if their spouse is deployed.