Bill reintroduced to ensure equal benefits in military

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U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., has introduced the Military Spouses Equal Treatment Act of 2013 to ensure equal benefits for all military spouses and equal standing for all military families.

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., is a co-sponsor of the legislation reintroduced just days after Defense Secretary Leon Panetta pledged to extend certain benefits to the partners of gay and lesbian servicemembers.

Smith, a ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, said, “Despite the Department of Defense making strides toward equality in the military, there is more that must be done to ensure that the rights of all servicemembers and their spouses are protected, regardless of who they are married to. This bill would make sure that servicemembers and veterans with same-sex spouses receive the same benefits as their heterosexual counterparts.”

The bill would change the definition of “spouse” in sections of the U.S. code to read “an individual shall be considered a ‘spouse’ if the marriage of the individual is valid in the State in which the marriage was entered into or, in the case of a marriage entered into outside any State, if the marriage is valid in the place in which the marriage was entered into and the marriage could have been entered into in a State.”

Smith said the change would require the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs to recognize any marriage that has been recognized by a state or the District of Columbia and provide the same benefits to the spouses of all servicemembers.

Pocan, a member of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, said in a news release, “Supporting our servicemen and women and our veterans also means supporting their spouses and families, whose sacrifices often go unseen and unrecognized. This support should not be contingent on whether a member of our military is gay or straight. After the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the Military Spouses Equal Treatment Act is an important step toward equality, and for ensuring we keep our promises to all of the courageous men and women who serve our country in uniform.”