Beginning with the repeal of don't ask don't tell in 2011, gay and lesbian servicemembers have marked significant milestones in the last several years, and on Wednesday they celebrated another victory. The Supreme Court voted 5-4 to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional, and the decision could open up new benefits to same-sex couples serving in the Armed Forces, according to Military Times.
Decision met with applause
The long awaited announcement of the decision was met with support from a wide range of people. DOMA, the 1996 law signed by President Bill Clinton, defined marriage as between a man and a woman, and although several states in the U.S. have made same-sex marriage legal, DOMA still barred them from receiving federal marriage benefits. This was especially problematic for couples in the military, who were unable to take advantage of healthcare, housing and survivor benefits. This loophole had been criticized by many lawmakers, including New York Senator Kristen Gillibrand.
"Same-sex partners of military service members should not be denied essential benefits because of who they are," Gillibrand said during the introduction of the Military Spouses Equal Treatment Act. "We must ensure that all of our military families who have sacrificed so much have access to the services and treatment they need and deserve."
Support from the top
Lawmakers aren't the only ones spurring change in Washington, D.C., top military brass are helping lead the charge as well, including Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. Most recently, Hagel and Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to President Obama recognized gay pride month at the Pentagon, USA Today reports. This isn't the first time Hagel has confirmed his support for the gay community. Earlier this year, he pledged to work quickly on making sure same-sex couples had the same benefits as other members of the military community. Advocates are hopeful that he will implement these changes as soon as possible.
"Secretary Hagel has already demonstrated his commitment to LGBT military families, just as he promised he would during his confirmation. Today the court cleared the way for him to take the next step," Allyson Robinson, an army veteran and executive director of OutServe-SLDN, an organization dedicated to helping those affected by don't ask don't tell, told Politico.